The shorn ultimatum: Shearer conditions still a bit choppy

The shorn ultimatum: Shearer conditions still a bit choppy


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According to shearers, standards across the state’s wool producing regions, while improving, are still quite varied. Pictured here is Hayden and Chris Morrison from Briggsy's Shearing Team, Forbes. Photo by Rachael Webb.

According to shearers, standards across the state’s wool producing regions, while improving, are still quite varied. Pictured here is Hayden and Chris Morrison from Briggsy's Shearing Team, Forbes. Photo by Rachael Webb.

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According to some, at the heart of the matter could be shearer-farmer relations.

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SURELY it doesn’t bother shearers if the sheds are a bit old?

Or without a toilet and sink?

Or a women’s bathroom?

Or without a place to sit and eat?

Unsurprisingly, it’s the little things that contribute to a feeling of wellbeing and support in the sheds.

And according to Dubbo shearer trainer Wayne Hosie the standards across the state’s wool producing regions, while improving, are still quite varied.

“Put it this way, have you ever driven a 1990s model Hilux?” Mr Hosie asks.

“And then have you driven a 2018 model Hilux? Well it’s like that with some places you work in.

“It can be chalk and cheese.”  

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Those on the ground know that conditions in the sheds is not a new topic, while the likes of SafeWork NSW, the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia, WoolProducers Australia, and NSW Farmers are continually pushing to lift standards, which many shearers concede are mixed at best.

But according to some, at the heart of the matter could be shearer-farmer relations.

Put it this way, have you ever driven a 1990s model Hilux? And have you driven a 2018 model? - Shearing instructor Wayne Hosie on the difference between a good and bad shearing shed

Greg Briggs, who runs Briggsy’s Shearing Team out of Forbes, says often the cockies aren’t aware what is lacking in the sheds.

He said a lot of shearing teams did not want to seem like whingers and so didn’t speak up, even though the farmer was more than likely to be open to feedback on facilities.  

Briggsy's Shearing Team members Hayden Morrison, Jedd Herbert, Chris Morrison and Gethro Brown. Photo by Rachael Webb.

Briggsy's Shearing Team members Hayden Morrison, Jedd Herbert, Chris Morrison and Gethro Brown. Photo by Rachael Webb.

“I’d say 90 per cent of cockies are great,” Mr Briggs said. “A lot of them don’t know because they’ve not been told.”

Mr Briggs, who has been around the sheds for 30 years, said while conditions across the region were gradually changing, many sheds were just not up to scratch.  

“It’s the amenities mainly,” he said.

“There’s a lot of women in the industry now and there are just no toilets available. You might just be washing out of a tap.

“Some see it as part and parcel of the shearing. But it’s not too much to expect a little bit more.”​

Wayne Hoise, a Dubbo-based shearer and trainer with TAFE and Australian Wool Innovation, says the conversation between farmers and shearers needs equal input. 

“People talk about the crap that goes on but I’d say nine out of ten farmers are pretty approachable,” he said. 

“So it goes both ways.” 

Mr Hosie said one positive development out at Dubbo was the number of woolgrowers signing up to TAFE shearing shortcourses themselves.

Overseen by prominent Dubbo farmer and trainer Frank Roberts the couple of shearing short courses run through the TAFE so far have received great feedback. 

“We’re seeing a lot of younger generational growers come through, though there are a number of others who just want to brush up,” Mr Roberts said.

“They get to shear a few sheep themselves, get up to speed on standards, and get a better idea of how to run their operation.” 

  • National Sheep and Wool journalist Krisi Frost delves further into shearing issues on page 19. 
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