Jockey Michelle Payne named The Australian newspaper’s Australian of the Year

25 January 2016

Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, has been named The Australian newspaper’s Australian of the Year. The graduate of Loreto College Ballarat, who rode Prince of Penzance to victory in 2015, is feted both for her grit and determination in the face of discrimination against women in sport, and for the example that she and her brother, Stevie, who works as her strapper, have set in breaking down stereotypes of people with disabilities.

As written by Chip Le Grand in The Australian:

“Her skilful, light touch in the saddle, followed by her blunt, ‘get stuffed’ dismissal of all who had doubted women hoops [jockeys] were made of strong enough stuff, shattered a stereotype of women in sport that has endured longer than the Cup itself. Her embrace of Stevie Payne, both as a cherished brother and valued member of the training team that helped her win the nation’s most celebrated race, sent a powerful message to people who live with Down syndrome and other disabilities and endure the patronising attitudes of others.”

In an exclusive interview with Loreto College Ballarat, Michelle said that attending an all-girls school was “great” because “nobody was trying to impress anybody, you’re able to be yourself”. She also paid tribute to her friends from Loreto who she is “still best friends with” and stuck with her “through thick and thin”, including when she suffered a serious brain injury after falling from a horse when she was 18 years old. Michelle also thanked the Loreto community and its teachers who ensured that “you got taught the right values from the start”, saying that she was “so proud” to be able to thank them at a Civic Reception in Ballarat and also to “mention it in my speech at Melbourne Cup, because those memories of being here will stick with me forever”.

To view Michelle Payne’s interview with Loreto College Ballarat, click here


Le Grand, C. (2016, January 23-24). Payne all fired up for uneven race to equality. The Weekend Australian, pp. 1, 6.