Iconic Aussie shearer a dying breed

Iconic Aussie shearer a dying breed

At Naringal farm in western Victoria a buzz is racing through the air. Shearing season is in full swing and New Zealand-born Grace Jones has just finished her first day on the job.

“I was nervous but I had a good support crew around me … the first run I was taking it easy and trying to feel my way around the sheep,” she tells AAP.

The 23-year-old's voice becomes animated as she talks of her “passion” for the craft.

“I was just trying to be as calm and as patient as I could be, trying to be relaxed 'cause I know how tense it can be on the body … not trying to stress out myself as otherwise the sheep will stress out as well.”

She may be new to shearing but Jones has been working full time in wool sheds since she was 17.

“I come from a family of shearers. A lot of my family work in the shearing sheds and I've been around it for most of my life.”

As a female in a field dominated by men, she's not just a rarity because of her gender.

Australian Bureau of Statistics survey data estimates the number of Aussie shearers dropped to 2100 in August. The figure was five times that in August 1990, with a workforce of around 9800.

While sheep numbers declined in that time – in 1990 there were 170 million head compared to less than 71 million today – they're again on the rise. But not so the shearer's.

Every year about four per cent of them walk away from the job, according to Jason Letchford, National Secretary of the Shearer's Contractors Association.

“We've got to get kids in all the country towns more interested or get people to go to those towns,” he tells AAP.

“We need to look at tenure and longevity because the farmers are ringing the phone off the wall asking when the shearers are going to get there.”

Letchford says the shortage has meant shearing delays of several weeks and the potential for disease and losses for producers.

“If you can't get your sheep harvested for money or love, then you are going to look at getting out of wool producing sheep.”

Letchford says while the shortage of shearers is a national problem, some states are tackling it better than others.

South Australia and Victoria have done very well training young shearers, he says, especially in more remote parts.

Now NSW is also trying to buck the trend by setting up a Wool Technical Advisory Group to boost numbers, as they did in SA and Victoria.

NSW Wool Committee Chair Helen Carrigan recognises “it's not going to be a quick fix”.

She wants to replicate the other states' models to better understand how many shearers are needed and why they're leaving the industry.

“We want to find out where are you, why did you leave the industry, what happened?” Carrigan says.

“We have to get this right because sheep have to be shorn.”

The wool producer says some farmers need to improve shed conditions to stop shearers walking “before they even start”.

“We've got to get the message out that shearing is a good industry to be in,” she tells AAP.

The Victorian and South Australian programs have seen 200 new people enter the industry in the past year.

Letchford says the ability to earn a minimum $300 a day and learn as you go makes it attractive but the biggest thing holding people back is that “it's a hard job”.

He also concedes “substandard” accommodation and shearing sheds has turned people off but improvements have been made.

“There are just not enough shearers to go around.”

Russell Bush knows that all too well.

He and his brother used to fill-in shear at their family farm in Dalton, NSW for weeks at a time because they couldn't get the staff.

An associate professor, he now teaches livestock production at the University of Sydney and says increased pay has helped attract shearers to the job.

“There will always be shearers but they may be paid more than what they currently are to attract people into that industry” says Bush, who also still runs a small number of fine wool sheep at his own property.

“There's definitely a sense of achievement at the end of each day. You look to build on the tally each day and there's an art involved in shearing as well.

“Australia has made shearing iconic because of the number of sheep we have and the quality of wool they produce. We produce the best wool in the world.”

Bush says despite new technologies the shearer hasn't been replaced: “They've tried with chemical shearing, with robotic shearing but it still doesn't replicate the people doing the shearing.”

In Victoria Grace Jones has just shorn 124 sheep.

It's a big achievement for the young roustabout. As Letchford says, “cracking a hundred” is like getting your P plates when you first learn to drive.

“I didn't rush it … it just came easily,” Jones says.

The back up shearer says she hopes one day to be shearing full-time but concedes it won't be her forever job.

“It's really physically demanding … I love the industry, I love where it can take us.”

And she's noticed more women giving shearing a go.

“I've got a few friends that are women shearers and they're beautiful to work with, so kind on the team … a woman shearer is so patient with her surroundings.”

Jones hopes more shearers will step up onto the board.

“I would hope that we would get more people to come into the industry. If you can do it, go hard.”

News Related


Efforts continue to quell SA bushfire

More than 150 firefighters continue to monitor a bushfire burning for several days in South Australia's southeast. The blaze near Lucindale is running uncontrolled through bluegum plantations, scrub and grassland ... Read more »

Rate-rise fears sweep ASX, broad losses

Investors have been having a terrible time on the ASX, with the market looking set to deliver its second-biggest loss of the month. The ASX fell steadily during early trade ... Read more »

NT prison escapees captured after six days

Three prison escapees on the run for six days in the extreme heat of the Northern Territory outback have been captured. Richard Henwood, 37, Ezra Austral, 23, and Maximus Cutta, ... Read more »

RSPCA calls for end to SA duck hunting

An estimated 40,000 water birds will be killed during South Australia's duck hunting season this year with the RSPCA calling for an end to the recreational activity that has “well ... Read more »

Gumtree killing 'tragic stupidity': judge

Tony Panagiotou didn't tell his sons to calm down and go back to sleep after they woke him up in the middle of the night and told him about a ... Read more »

Roberts-Smith trial could shift to WA

Ben Roberts-Smith's high-profile defamation trial could be shifted to Western Australia to make it easier to hear evidence from key witnesses based in that state, a court has been told. ... Read more »

SA firefighters warn of equipment issues

South Australian firefighters have warned of chronic under-resourcing within the service, which they say is putting the state and lives at risk at the worst possible time of the year. ... Read more »

Flood warnings for SA amid heavy rain

State Emergency Service crews are on alert amid forecasts of heavy rain and flash flooding across parts of South Australia in coming days. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a ... Read more »

AAP newswire announces new CEO

Former Sydney Morning Herald editor Lisa Davies has been appointed CEO of Australian Associated Press. The move comes as Emma Cowdroy steps back from the role due to family commitments, ... Read more »

Qld teen arrested over stabbing death

A 17-year-old boy has been arrested after the stabbing death of another teenager during a street fight on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Emergency services were called to the fight outside a ... Read more »

BREAKING NEWS:  Ivanka Trump will be called to testify by committee investigating Jan. 6 riot

The chair of the House committee investigating January 6th said they will invite Ivanka Trump to come and speak with them. ‘You will anticipate the committee inviting some people to ... Read more »

Sharks face adapt, move or die scenario

Climate change could soon force baby sharks out of their shallow coastal nurseries in what could prove to be a profound threat to the apex predators. Scientists who have been ... Read more »

Omicron sends childcare centres scrambling

Hundreds of Australia's early education centres are closed as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 washes over the country, and there are calls for more financial support for the struggling sector. ... Read more »

Border backflip leaves WA further isolated

West Australians face being trapped indefinitely within their own state after Premier Mark McGowan broke his promise to reopen the state's borders next month. Mr McGowan announced the extraordinary backflip ... Read more »

SA to reveal COVID-19 rules for schools

South Australia is set to reveal full details of its return to school arrangements as it continues to battle the Omicron-fuelled COVID-19 outbreak. The government has already unveiled some aspects ... Read more »

States to announce specific school plans

Students and teachers will have a clearer idea how schools will operate as states and territories unveil their COVID-safe plans in coming days. The federal government has agreed to split ... Read more »

Omicron takes toll on business activity

Business activity in December was much weaker than hoped, driven by staff shortages, supply chain disruptions and weakened consumer confidence as a result of the Omicron variant. Credit reporting agency ... Read more »

Drowning toll prompts warning to young men

A 32-year-old man who went swimming in a river and disappeared during a houseboat trip with family and friends. A 42-year-old man who did not resurface after swimming in a ... Read more »

NSW man charged with rape of 15yo girl

A NSW man has faced court charged with detaining and raping a girl in his care. Police on Wednesday received reports that a 15-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted earlier ... Read more »

Climate club plan could punish Australia

Australia could get the economic cold shoulder from some of the world's richest nations unless it does more to curb its emissions, observers say. Climate diplomacy experts have seized on ... Read more »

Uber buys out Aussie car share company

Uber has announced it will take over an Australian car sharing platform, in a move it hopes will cement the service as a viable alternative to owning a car. The ... Read more »

NT remote COVID clusters grow, 459 cases

The Northern Territory has reported 459 new COVID-19 cases as infections continue to rise among the Indigenous population and remote communities. It brings the total number of active cases in ... Read more »

Mystery infection among new WA virus cases

Western Australia has reported five new local COVID-19 cases, including a person with no apparent connection to known clusters. WA Health on Thursday said the infected person, identified overnight, had ... Read more »

Court fight over Perth hospital drags on

A multimillion dollar legal fight between construction giant John Holland and the West Australian government is headed for a lengthy trial next year. The two parties have been before the ... Read more »

ANZ drops home loan rates, matches Westpac

ANZ Bank has become the latest lender to cut home loan rates despite market predictions that official rates will rise. ANZ on Thursday dropped variable interest rates by up to ... Read more »

Refugee Council gets nod as nation builder

The Refugee Council of Australia has been named one of the world's '10 standout leaders' by a global online platform for charities, movements and campaigns. The Refugee Council was on ... Read more »

New virus threat to NT cop's murder trial

With less than three weeks until the latest attempt to run a Northern Territory policeman's murder trial after it was twice cancelled due to COVID-19, the Supreme Court does not ... Read more »

BREAKING NEWS: Republicans block Democrats' voting rights bill in another blow to Joe Biden's domestic agenda

Republicans blocked Democrats 49-51 from passing its voting rights package on Wednesday evening in another blow to President Joe Biden's domestic agendaThe 49-51 vote came when Democrats needed 60 votes in order to end debate and initiate a vote on the legislation that would overhaul U.S. voting lawsRepublicans are using the filibuster mechanism to block a vote on the matter Democratic Senator Joe Manchin came out vehemently against eliminating the filibuster, which his party wanted to get rid of to jam through their agenda   Read more »

ASX down, Block struggles early on debut

US payments giant Block has made its debut on the ASX but the market was broadly weaker after a downturn on Wall Street. Block, which replaces merger partner Afterpay on ... Read more »

ACT case numbers drop, 892 new infections

COVID-19 case numbers in the ACT have nearly halved in the past day, falling below 1000 for the first time in more than a week. Thursday saw the national capital ... Read more »

Employment rises by 64,800 in December

LABOUR FORCE DATA FOR DECEMBER: * Unemployment rate – 4.2 per cent versus 4.6 per cent in November * Underemployment rate (employed people seeking additional work) – 6.6 per cent ... Read more »

SA keeps 10-day isolation for virus cases

South Australians who test positive for COVID-19 will continue to quarantine for 10 days with Premier Steven Marshall ruling out cutting the isolation requirement in half. The issue is expected ... Read more »

Infant's body found in NSW, woman arrested

A woman has been arrested after a baby's body was found at a home in southern NSW. Police searched the house in Corowa in the Murray River region on Wednesday ... Read more »

Charlise mourned after Blue Mtns death

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says he was “completely devastated” by the death of nine-year-old Charlise Mutten who was allegedly murdered while holidaying with her family in the Blue Mountains. “As ... Read more »

Victorian IVF services resume after pause

Prospective parents will be able to resume IVF in Victoria after the state government reversed a pause on some procedures. Acting Health Minister James Merlino has announced some services will ... Read more »

Sydney man charged over theft of 42k RATs

A man accused of stealing 42,000 rapid antigen tests and boxes of face masks is due to face a Sydney court. The supplies, worth at least $500,000, were uncovered in ... Read more »

BREAKING: Two US marines are killed and seven are critically injured after military truck crashes on highway in North Carolina

At least two Marines have been killed and seven others have been critically injured after a military truck crashed in North Carolina on WednesdayA witness said the truck with the Marines had rolled over during the crashA medical helicopter was called to the scene to transport the injured soldiers to hospital Five other Marines who were in the vehicle were uninjured Read more »

Court to publish reasons for Djokovic case

The public are set to find out the full reasons why a three-judge panel of the Federal Court ruled unanimously against Novak Djokovic in his bid to have his visa ... Read more »

Jobless seen returning to a pre-Delta low

The unemployment rate is expected to return to the 13-year low seen briefly last year when the latest jobs figures are released. Economists expect Thursday's Australian Bureau of Statistics labour ... Read more »

About 56 schools are partly closed and sixteen are completely closed

BNR made inquiries with schools and found out that a record number of schools have had to close completely or partially for two days in a row. BNR also obtained ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic