For the past 30 years, a shearing and wool-handling school for beginners has been held at a historic north-east Tasmanian property.
- A shearing school can only train half its usual number of students this year, with physical distancing measures in place
- Experts say this will lead to shearer shortage in the industry
- But those who do attend may be getting more out of it, with teachers saying they have more time for each student
But due to COVID-19 restrictions, only half the usual number of students are able to attend the two-week school at the Malahide property in Fingal, established in the 1820 to produce high-quality Tasmanian wool.
Instructor Matthew Haney from Australian Wool Innovation said with this year’s attendance numbers down, the industry would soon be facing even greater shearer shortages.
“With the COVID-19 restrictions, we’ve had to cut back the numbers,” he said.
“We’ve got eight [students] to work with so we’ll work with them, hopefully we’ll get them started and away in the industry.”
Mr Haney said he hoped it would provide some help to address the state’s shearer shortage.
“I don’t think we’ll ever keep up with the replacements the way things are, we’ve just got to keep chipping away and training people.”
Following in the family footsteps
Jimmy Small, 16, is relishing the opportunity to learn more about shearing.
The Oatlands teenager wants to follow in the family footsteps.
“Dad’s a shearer, my brother’s a shearer, so I just want to join in with them and have a go,” he said.
Campbell Town District High School student Abigail Mills, 18, from Antill Ponds, is considering pursuing wool handling as a career.
“I was very lucky to go on this camp due to COVID-19 and I’m pretty happy to be on it,” she said.
“I get to learn the basics from scratch shearing which I’ve never done before, wool handling which I’ve done a little bit of but I get to build on my skills.”
She’s encouraging other women to consider a career in the wool and shearing industry.
“I think it’s a good thing for women to get out there and try new stuff,” she said.
Adjusting to meet restrictions
Fellow instructor Jack Monks said it had been harder to coordinate the shearing school with physical distancing restrictions in place.
“I’ve been training for eight years now and it’s completely different, but you’ve just got to have that gap, that distance, all the time,” he said.
“It’s such a hands-on type of experience that it’s going to take a little bit of adjustment but nothing that we can’t get around.”
He said having fewer students might even be a bonus.
A similar school is conducted in Ross in February, and there are plans to set up another in the state’s south.