Daniel de Carteret –
In a sweltering shed on an Australian farm near the rural town of Trangie, Emma Billet drags a nervous sheep from a waiting pen to her shearing station.
She is the only female in her crew of five shearers, but attitudes on Australian farms are changing and training approaches are encouraging a gender rethink, with more women entering the profession Down Under. “It is a physical job which I enjoy. I like to work hard,” 28-year-old Billet, who can fleece 130 sheep daily, said.
“It is like a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.”
The number of skilled women working with farm animals — including animal trainers, veterinary nurses and shearers and shearing hands — has grown from close to 11,700 in 2006 to almost 19,200 a decade later, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“It comes back to women being on the land as well,” Billet said of the rise of women in the industry.
“It has become more and more common now just to see women owning farms and running businesses and I guess times have just changed. It is good to see.”
Although there are still fewer than 100 female shearers, experts say there has been significant growth in the past few years.
“There have been women in the shed for a long time, that have just been roustabouts (shed hands that collect the wool from the ground),” Glenn Haynes, a shearing programme coordinator at TAFE South Australia, a leading vocational training school, said.
There was resistance in past, however, with a “pretty negative attitude towards women” from the older generation when it came to their ability to shear, Haynes added.
But this is changing and new approaches to training are being introduced, including female-only programmes, as demand among women grows, he said. Haynes held a workshop in 2016 targeting women, in which just a few pursued a shearing career, but the annual event has recently seen close to 25 enter the trade.
Australia is one of the world’s largest wool exporters, producing 25 per cent of greasy wool sold on the global market.
Jim Murray, shearing development manager at industry group Australian Wool Innovation, said there has been an increase in female shearers for various reasons — better training, modern technologies and a more professional industry.
“Women are much easier to teach to shear as they often do not come with pre-conceived ideas,” he added. —AFP
Daniel de Carteret –