Michelle Payne, Jockey
Michelle Payne attended Loreto College Ballarat from 1998 – 2000, making the tough decision at the end of Year 9 to leave her school and friends to pursue her dream of becoming a professional jockey, following in the footsteps of seven of her ten siblings. Michelle remains very close with her ‘Loreto friends’ and speaks fondly of her time spent here during those formative years:
‘They were happy days and important days. Looking back I can see now that the philosophy of the school had an impact on me. My family and the school had the same values, so one reinforced the other. The school really believed in the dignity of all people – that everyone matters – and the importance of working hard to develop the talents you were blessed with.’
‘It was a great school for the group of strong, articulate young women I went through the grades with… As our teachers would remind us occasionally, Mary Ward famously once said “Women in time to come will do much”. The group of girls I was with were certainly going to give it a good shot!’
In chasing her dream Michelle has endured many significant difficulties along the way, including a number of serious falls, but she has always shown great determination to be regarded as one of the best jockeys in Australia.
In 2015, aged 30, she rode straight into the history books on board Prince of Penzance, becoming the first female jockey ever to win the Melbourne Cup. Importantly for Michelle, she was able to share this amazing achievement with her brother and strapper, Stevie, right by her side.
When Michelle declared that day that anyone who said women couldn’t compete with men in the racing industry could ‘get stuffed’, the nation stood up and cheered.
While her life has changed dramatically since the Cup, both of Michelle’s feet remain firmly planted on the ground, and in true Loreto spirit she considers the impact she may now be able to have on the lives of others; ‘It would be a privilege if achieving my dream could inspire the next generation’.