Horse SA farewells tireless advocate Julie Fiedler

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Julie Fiedler, who is leaving Horse SA after 20 years.
Julie Fiedler, who is leaving Horse SA after 20 years.

Horse SA Executive Officer Julie Fiedler is leaving her post after 20 years with the South Australian organisation.

Fiedler has resigned to embark on a research PhD about the welfare of horses in racing, sport and tourism, and how attitudes of stakeholders may inform an organisation’s social licence to operate.

She first tackled an undergraduate degree in communication, exploring the topic of horse sport’s social licence to operate, a concept largely unknown at that time. She then pressed on to a Master of Communication degree (by research), which was awarded in January 2020 from Central Queensland University, and is now about to undertake study towards a Doctorate of Philosophy.

Fiedler has been with Horse SA for 20 years, beginning with a Board appointment and 19 years as Executive Officer. Her departure was announced by Horse SA chair Dr Lisa McDonald, who described Fiedler as a “tour de force, showing exceptional leadership across this organisation’s broad portfolio”. She said Fiedler had shown an “unflinching commitment to the mission of Horse SA”.

“You have represented Horse SA nationally and internationally by contributing to crucial advances in equine-related policy, research, practice, management, education, welfare and wellbeing,” McDonald said.

“Your sustained work in informing significant national debates about the introduction of an Australian horse traceability register led to Horse SA’s submission at the recent Senate inquiry about the feasibility of such a register. In this sense, you are an exceptional organiser who ‘takes people with you’ – you understand the complexity of working across government, industry and community, building relationships with a common focus, and you seem to do so almost effortlessly.”

McDonald said that Fiedler’s work with colleagues in government and affiliated organisations, horse owners and the community during South Australia’s bushfires during the summer was well respected.

Several founding members of Horse SA joined in tribute to Fiedler, including Pam Brookman, who said she had never been part of an organisation where its Executive Officer has worked so hard. “I believe the horse community in SA and for that matter, Australia, owes Julie a huge debt of gratitude. More than they will ever know.

“It has never ceased to amaze me just how much time Julie has put into Horse SA because of her passion for horse owners and riders to maintain a viable industry and access to places to ride as more and more of the general public became isolated from having anything to do with horses and didn’t care about them,” Brookman said.

“I wish Julie all the best in following her dreams to do her PhD. It won’t be easy work-wise or financially, but she has shown she is very capable of managing hard work on the smell of an oily rag.”

Former SA secretary Denzil O’Brien said Fiedler was “unafraid to take on the big issues (and sometimes the big people!)”.

“She is respected and admired across varied sections of the community, not just the horse world. She is acknowledged as a leader in her thinking, and in coming to grips with vitally important issues for the horse world, such as biosecurity, resilience, traceability, ethics and science, and workplace safety. She is committed, dedicated, tireless and innovative,” O’Brien said.

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