OPINION

Look to Tayla Harris statue to consider Michelle Payne's defining legacy

PIVOTAL: Tayla Harris attends her sculpture unveiling, branded "more than a kick", at Federation Square on Wednesday. Harris hopes this moment is remembered as a catalyst for change. Picture: Getty Images

PIVOTAL: Tayla Harris attends her sculpture unveiling, branded "more than a kick", at Federation Square on Wednesday. Harris hopes this moment is remembered as a catalyst for change. Picture: Getty Images

TAKE A good hard look at the statues in our city, Ballarat. Statues tell stories of who we are, who we aspire to be and the undercurrents of a city. These are not always proud stories.

A bronzed statue of AFLW player Tayla Harris and iconic kick was unveiled in Federation Square, Melbourne, this week. The statue will stay there during AFL finals this month before finding a permanent pride of place.

Her fiercely debated kick last season - sparked by an incredible photo from experienced AFL photographer Michael Wilson - is somewhat not surprisingly, but disappointingly, drawing ire for being immortalised in bronze.

Even AFL great Malcolm Blight, who has his own statue at Adelaide Oval, has declared this "ludicrous" and said other sporting women deserve it more.

But this is, as it was last summer, a line in the sand moment who Tayla hoped could be "remembered as a catalyst for change, a stand against online harassment and a reminder to women and girls that we deserve these opportunities".

Look about Ballarat.

We have amazing history immortalised down our city's spine, mostly our war stories. City of Ballarat last weekend unveiled a new life-size figure of George Treloar with a young girl to represent the hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees he helped in Greece after WWI.

There are not many women. Queen Victoria takes her stand outside town hall, a colonial ruler from a foreign land, perpetually casting her shadow on our main street.

Bella Guerin's name came up at this week's council meeting this week. A resident suggested in chambers the Ballarat political activist be bronzed. Guerin was the first female to graduate from an Australian university, a feat she achieved in 1883.

We should also look to Harris for inspiration

The story of Michelle Payne's 2015 Melbourne Cup win is hitting the big screen with Ballarat to host the regional premiere of Ride Like A Girl on Sunday ahead of a national release later this month.

Similarly to Harris, Payne's own line in the sand moment, is an incredibly powerful and defining point in sparking change for the culture of women in sport: "I just want to say to everyone else that they can get stuffed if they think women aren't strong enough because we just beat the world".

DEFINING: Historic moment as Michelle Payne celebrates winning the 2015 Melbourne Cup, proving an Australian jockey could "beat the world". Picture: The Age

DEFINING: Historic moment as Michelle Payne celebrates winning the 2015 Melbourne Cup, proving an Australian jockey could "beat the world". Picture: The Age

Imagine the impact a Payne statue could have, a key story of our city, for future generations. There could be Olympic racewalker Jared Tallent, who earned gold after a tireless, outspoken and global campaign against drug cheats in his sport.

They need not forever stand on Sturt Street in the city's open-air gallery.

Most fittingly would be near Mars Stadium in what is transforming into the city's major sporting precinct. Plenty of other sporting grounds, like Collingwood's spiritual home Victoria Park, tell their history in an open-air museum format.

Ballarat has a tribute for our Olympians and Paralympians by Lake Wendouree, site of the 1956 Melbourne Games' rowing.

Statutes need their own space. Then, imagine the stories and conversations an athlete like Payne could then lead for our city.

This story More than a statue, we need to consider our bronzed hero stories first appeared on The Courier.