Coronavirus uncertainty forces cancellation of Birdsville Races

Time has run out for iconic outback Queensland event.

The Birdsville Races has been scratched for 2020.

Event organisers had been holding on to hope the “Melbourne Cup of the outback" would go ahead as scheduled in September, but have succumbed to the uncertainty surrounding numbers allowed at public gatherings because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Birdsville Race Club Vice-President Gary Brook said organisers reached the point where they had to “concede defeat”.

“The health of our patrons, and those who live in outback Queensland, is of paramount importance to us and it is impossible to know what the status with COVID-19 will be come September,” Mr Book said.

“We have been following the Queensland Government’s roadmap for easing of restrictions, and with the easing of restrictions on mass gatherings not currently part of the roadmap, it is too much of a stretch to expect that by September we could safely host thousands of people in Birdsville.”

Birdsville races

Since the first running in 1882, the Birdsville Races have been cancelled only once before – in 2007 due to an outbreak of equine influenza.


Organisers delayed making the decision, mindful of the meeting’s benefits to businesses and tourism in the region.

Other options were considered, including changing the date from 4-5 September to later that month or early October.

“However, the consensus now is that it will still be too soon to allow us to run the event,” Mr Brook said.

“And with the heat that comes to the Simpson Desert region in November and December there is no way we could go any later.”

Mr Brook said the 2021 Birdsville Races (3-4 September) were expected to be more popular than ever and form a key part of the Queensland tourism industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Birdsville races

“Racing has a key role to play in driving Queensland’s post-pandemic tourism recovery and we look forward to seeing Birdsville return bigger and better in 2021,” he said.

“After the event was unable to run in 2007 we recorded our largest crowds ever in 2008 and we’re expecting next year to even bigger than that. 

“It will be an amazing experience in outback Queensland.”

The Birdsville Races attract more than 7000 visitors to outback Queensland to enjoy yabby races, street parties and various other events that lead into the big Friday and Saturday race days.

The sale date for tickets to the 2021 Birdsville Races will be announced in the coming months with race entry and trackside hospitality options also available for pre-purchase.