The Birdsville Races hold a lot of history for Venessa Harris and her family. The seventeen-year-old, aspiring Indigenous model and cancer survivor has grown up hearing stories of the races from a young age.
Both Venessa’s Grandfather, Kevin (Spinny) Monaghan, and Uncle, David (Ted) Monaghan rode in The Birdsville races, and Venessa grew up riding horses. When Venessa was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2015, she was just breaking into the modelling industry, and her treatment meant putting everything on hold, including horse riding. Venessa spent 12 months in Brisbane, undergoing treatment and learning to walk again.
In 2018 Venessa was asked to be the ambassador of The Birdsville Races, allowing her not only to be back around horses and a large part of her family history but also to thank the community for their support during her battle with cancer. This year, Venessa is again the ambassador of the event, bringing her back to the region where she is eyeing off a career in the cattle industry. Venessa’s mum, Karen Monaghan describes the cattle industry as another huge part of Venessa’s family roots as her great grandfather was a stockman and her grandfather also moved cattle.
Venessa’s family roots are tied strongly to Birdsville, with the annual trip for the races described as a “homecoming” by the family. With this love of horses and deep family history, it is only fitting that Venessa Harris has been asked back to the Birdsville Races as the face of the outback carnival, and this years 2019 official ambassador. In the lead up to the event, organisers are preparing to welcome nearly 7000 visitors to the region, for two days of horseracing and outback entertainment and activities.