Racing Victoria (RV) and the Australian Trainers’ Association (ATA) have announced the appointment of a full-time Trainer Wellbeing Liaison Officer to provide a point-of-contact to support Victoria’s thoroughbred horse trainers and lead the development of an industry-specific wellbeing program.
Psychologist Kirra Fitzgerald has been appointed to the new role and brings with her strong experience in the implementation of health and wellbeing projects as well as time spent practising as a general psychologist.
Ms Fitzgerald also has extensive practical industry experience having previously worked in a family breeding business in Queensland where she was involved with breeding and rearing thoroughbred racehorses, preparing yearlings for the Magic Millions sales and the education and career planning of young horses.
The role will see Ms Fitzgerald provide a point of first-level guidance and support for trainers in need and serve as a conduit to expert advice.
The appointment is the next stage in the development of the industry’s trainer wellbeing program which is being rolled-out by RV in partnership with the ATA.
It follows the pilot program of workshops conducted by beyondblue last September to address the wellbeing needs of Victorian trainers and their stable employees and to share expert information on mental health.
The positive response to these sessions led to a decision to appoint a full-time professional to establish a permanent program to support the general health and welfare needs of trainers, their stable employees and families.
RV Chief Executive, Bernard Saundry, said the appointment of Ms Fitzgerald was an important step in the industry’s long-term strategies to support Victorian trainers.
“Together with the ATA, we are committed to developing the appropriate framework to support all Victorian trainers in better managing their health and wellbeing and we’re pleased to announce Kirra Fitzgerald’s appointment as our first Trainer Wellbeing Liaison Officer,” Saundry said.
“Kirra has a strong knowledge of and passion for the industry and she will play an integral role in shaping and delivering the wellbeing program to ensure we’re managing any areas of concern to trainers.
“As part of the role, Kirra will facilitate regular information sessions at Victorian training centres to help put trainers in touch with professionals who can help address a range of issues which affect wellbeing including workplace, financial and general business practices, conflict resolution and mental and physical health.”
ATA Victorian President, Robbie Griffiths, welcomed Kirra Fitzgerald’s appointment.
“We commend Racing Victoria on the creation of this new role and appreciate their support in helping trainers in such an important initiative by providing a permanent professional resource for those who require assistance in managing and addressing their health and wellbeing issues,” Griffiths said.
“The ATA urges trainers to contact Kirra Fitzgerald and discuss such issues, which are conducted on a confidential basis”.
Ms Fitzgerald will play a key role in the next stage of the trainer wellbeing program roll-out which is the launch of a trainer wellbeing portal on the RV website (rv.racing.com) to provide practical resources and serve as a gateway to expert advice.
The pilot program of wellbeing workshops which led to the development of a permanent trainer wellbeing program was supported by the State Government through the Victorian Racing Industry Fund (VRIF).