Diversity projects offers indigenous enthusiasts motorsport path

Monday 24 August, 2020
Garry Connelly AM (left) poses with Gunya Meta Indigenous mentor Michael Orcher and Norwell Motorplex operator and Paul Morris (right).
An innovative project to help young indigenous Australian people develop careers in motorsport has been launched in Queensland with the backing of leading racing identities and Logan-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation Gunya Meta.
 
Racing Together will start in Queensland this October with a pilot program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and boys aged between 12 and 16, but organisers hope it eventually will become a national program offering a place in the prestigious Ferrari Academy.
 
The project has been conceived and underwritten by Brisbane couple Garry and Monique Connelly, who have extensive motorsport competition and administrative experience at international level. Mr Connelly AM is Australia’s delegate to the world motorsport organising body, the FIA, and holds a number of senior positions there, including as a Permanent Chair of the Formula 1 Stewards.
 
“Australian motorsport has not had any noticeable participation by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Connelly said.
 
“Motorsport, like any sport, has enormous potential to provide a source of enjoyment, motivation, pride and employment to those who participate, be it as a driver, mechanic, race engineer or event official.
 
“The Racing Together project is designed to identify and then assist suitable candidates from a cohort of indigenous young people of both genders, in the 12 to 16 years age group, and provide them with an opportunity to pursue a career in our sport, as either a driver or a member of a race team.”
 
The pilot project will recruit participants from Logan City, on Brisbane’s southern outskirts, and take them on a two-day intensive training, education and selection programme at the Norwell Motorplex, which is operated by team owner and Bathurst 1000 winner Paul Morris. The Norwell Motorplex and Paul Morris have offered significant assistance and support for the project.
 
Other leading racing identities have also agreed to present sessions and assist with the programme.
 
At the end of the weekend programme, the selectors will award one participant a scholarship to compete in an appropriate racing series or championship in 2021 with a competitive car, team facilities, tuition, equipment and travel costs.
 
Other promising participants will be involved in the team for 2021, including the possibility of helping to build the race car.
 
All participants will be required to commit to remaining fully engaged with their schooling requirements. 
 
“Gunya Meta is proud to work with Garry and Monique Connelly to deliver Racing Together, particularly because of how passionate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is for motorsport," Gunya Meta indigenous mentor Michael Orcher added.
 
“The love of cars and racing have been a part of our culture for a long time and is often shared in our families gathering to watch races or even working together to make or fix cars. Often our Mob’s homes will have an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flag right next to a motorsport flag.
 
“With this amazing program we can finally connect our interest with the opportunity to get a foot in the door of this international industry. Racing Together will create a path for indigenous young people to gain experience and skills that might help make representation of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on the global motorsport stage a reality, something that has not been done before.”
 
Mr Connelly said if the pilot programme was successful it would be extended to other regions of Australia, in consultation with indigenous community leaders.
 
Should a suitable driver candidate be identified after at least one year of competition, funding would be provided for participation in the Ferrari Academy (Asia Pacific), including circuit racing in Sydney in an FIA Formula 4 single-seat race car.
 
The project is supported by Motorsport Australia, which will provide permits and associated insurances.
 
Information about joining the program will be announced soon, but meanwhile enquiries can be made at, [email protected].
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