By CHASE Editor Pat McLeod
Shane Gillard’s moment of truth came soon after he had joined the rally call to reform greyhound racing.
It was 2016 and the highly credentialled Gillard had just been appointed to establish and head the Greyhound Racing Integrity Unit in Victoria, in the wake of the live-baiting scandal.
He was under the blow-torch. But the ‘attack’ wasn’t coming from an angry ‘anti’ or from a disgruntled owner/trainer/breeder.
Gillard was being stared down by his then 11-year-old daughter.
“Basically, she said to me: ‘Why would you go across to that cruel industry that does such terrible things to animals?’,” he recalls.
“It was a really good question. I knew that I wanted to drive better outcomes within greyhound racing in Victoria and that is why I had signed up. But, I also needed my daughter, and me, to know that the heart of this industry is good.
“So, I said to her, ‘Why don’t we go and have a look at what really happens so that you can see for yourself’.
“The very next week I took her to a meeting at The Meadows.
“She was fascinated by how quick the dogs ran and how much they actually wanted to run. She could see how excited the dogs were walking into the kenneling area and, once released, how excited they were by the lure, the sand, the lights … that changed her mind.
“She had a quick conversation with one of the vets on course. He said to her: ‘These dogs love being here. Have a look at this dog and how excited he is. He knows he is about to go out for a run’.”
On December 2, last year, Gillard took up the reins as Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner. After a whirlwind couple of months of moving and then acclimatising to a new State and a new job – all under the ‘covid cloud’ – he is about to embark on extensive ‘meet and greet’ across all three racing codes and across Queensland.
One of his key aims is for the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) to become a genuine part of the Queensland racing industry. To do that he needs to get to know the landscape and the people and for them to get to know him.
If you read through Gillard’s CV, the picture quickly emerges of a man whose knowledge base is steeped in regulation and governance – the devil-in-the-detail stuff that is essential to the successful running of any organisation today.
A not-so-obvious part of that picture is Gillard’s extensive community background, from coaching junior cricket, Australian rules football and basketball through to being Chairman of the Bully Zero Australia Foundation.
“My background is broader than just my professional background,” he says. “I have been involved at a community level in sporting organisations for 25 years – coaching, operations, sports development, personal and community development as well as governance. That is just as important as my professional life background.
“Family and sport drive me.
“I have always been interested in sport and living an active lifestyle. I grew up playing sport. My parents played sport. My kids and my wife enjoy playing sport.”
Like almost every Victorian, Gillard is a passionate AFL devotee and a North Melbourne fan, however many ‘Maroons’ will be interested to know he is also a Melbourne Storm (rugby league) supporter.
Gillard has been a long-time advocate of the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission model. He says the operating model which separates the integrity functions of racing from the commercial aspects is by far the best in the country.
“The QRIC operating model was also what attracted me to the role of Commissioner,” he said.
“The conflict that exists when the controlling body has both the commercial interests and integrity as competing priorities is difficult to navigate. You need strong people, strong systems and processes to ensure that the priorities don’t collide.
“The Queensland operating model, while it’s very different to most other Australian operating models, it is superior.
“Within a couple of years we hope to demonstrate and challenge all of the traditional structures, that this model is the best.”
Gillard has come to the role with a vision of ‘one industry’ in Queensland, which communicates, shares information and strengthens the industry.
“My focus will be on establishing clear channels of communication across the breadth of the industry to ensure that everyone remains informed and aligned with industry objectives including emerging issues,” he said.
“I’d like to pursue the idea of developing forums that enable the sharing of information, which includes identifying key personnel in industry organisations and understanding the key points of escalation.
“Everyone in the Queensland racing industry shares a common interest as we all work towards ensuring the highest level of animal care, sound integrity, safety, strong industry growth and sustainability.
“It’s about aligning everyone with those five objectives, always having them on the table so we all understand what is important. The priorities for each stakeholder group may be different, but our objectives are the same.”
As Gillard continues his Queensland orientation, he acknowledges that respect is never a given.
“I can’t tell anyone to respect us. That is for them to do,” he said. “But what I can do is to operate in a way that is fair and professional.
“You will never please everyone. There will be people who over-step the mark and they need to be held to account. Most people in the industry would want and expect us to do that.
“You have to earn respect. You can start with a healthy platform, but that flips on you quickly depending on your decision-making. “I am not new to racing, but I am new to this State. I just want to bring people along with me and we will be judged by how the industry evolves.”