Women in the cab

Women thriving in a "man's job"

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Morgan Durrant-Curtis with Australia's first Massey Ferguson baler. Morgan is a raker for her Dad's contracting business.

Morgan Durrant-Curtis with Australia's first Massey Ferguson baler. Morgan is a raker for her Dad's contracting business.

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From tractor driving to shearing, women are thriving in traditionally male-dominated roles in the agricultural industry.

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The National Farmers Federation says women now make up 41 per cent of the agricultural workforce. But, there are some sections of the industry where women are still few and far between.

Morgan Durrant-Curtis is a tractor driver working for PJ Curtis Contracting, owned by her dad, Butch, in Bega.

Morgan started raking for her dad's business straight after finishing Year 12.

"I hopped on the go roughly three years ago," Morgan said.

"Dad said I could have a crack and I thought yeah why not, I've done every season since then."

The pair recently became the proud owners of the first Massey Ferguson baler in Australia.

"It's unreal," Morgan said.

"We've just had the first customer, they had a 15 to 20 hectare flat just down the road from us.

"We made around 147 bales off that, which was great."

Morgan now hopes to take over the business from her dad one day and says the community has been very supportive of her.

"A lot of farmers, our local clients, say 'wow Morgs is in the tractor now, it's so good to see a woman driver", Morgan said.

"They've 100 per cent been really good."

She said one of the most challenging aspects of driving tractors was the physical strength needed.

"A lot of people think it's just driving the machinery but it's the maintenance side of things too," Morgan said.

"You break it, you've got to fix it.

"I'm strong but for me to lifting heavy equipment, moving stuff and doing the "big man job," tested me out the first year, but then I was like ok I can handle this."

Morgan was named the Bega Showgirl this year and hoped she could be a role model for younger girls in the community looking to enter the agriculture industry.

"I say look if I can do a "man's" job, anyone can do it," Morgan said.

"It's amazing to see young girls finishing school now, look to take that step into ag."

Jeanine Kimm shears around 160 sheep a day, working mostly in the Bombala region as part of a contracting team. Photo by Mark Constance.

Jeanine Kimm shears around 160 sheep a day, working mostly in the Bombala region as part of a contracting team. Photo by Mark Constance.

Shear like a girl 

Up the hill at Bombala, Jeanine Kimm has been shearing full-time for the last six years.

Like Morgan, Jeanine said it was her father who first gave her the opportunity and confidence to pick up a traditionally male-dominated trade.

"Dad's a shearer and when I was 14 he said do you want to have a go?," Jeanine said.

"Dad raised me to just jump in so I had a go and built up my confidence from there."

Jeanine is just 5 foot 2 and weighs 55 kilograms but she hasn't let her size get in the way of the job at hand, shearing around 160 sheep a day.

"I'm not a huge person, I get a lot of comments about my size and statue but I think it's just keeping fit to it," Jeanine said.

"The hardest part when you're learning is muscle memory and getting your body used to something different, bending over for so long and so much stress in your legs.

"I think it's more of a mental thing, what goals you set for yourself.

"I think if I walked in and thought 'jeez I'm little, this is going to be hard', it would be a hard day."

I'd think you're just judging me on looks rather than what I can bring to the table. - Janine Kimm, Bombala Shearer

She said the best part of the job was being part of a supportive community and team.

But, things have changed a little since she first picked up the shears.

"When I was first starting, something would be said and it would get me fired up, I'd think you're just judging me on looks rather than what I can bring to the table," Jeanine said.

"A few guys have, at times, have made a song and dance about me being a girl and shearing more sheep than them, rather than considering experience and technique.

"But it's not fair to think you should be doing a better job at something just because of your gender.

"Most of the time it's not something anyone fusses over, everyone just gets in and does their job."

Jeanine is no longer the only woman in her contracting team shearing, Clancy Matthews also stepping up to the stand.

"It was really good to see her develop and grow in her shearing, we're very lucky with the team we work in, there's no one that's a bit of a ratbag about it," Jeanine said.

She said school-aged girls were also having a go in the shearing sheds.

"There's a lot of younger girls in the community who come in and so some roustabouting and they all want to have a go shearing too," Jeanine said.

"It's amazing how quickly they pick it up and they don't rush as much as the younger fellas do."

Jeanine said she will continue to shear for as long as she enjoys it.

"I'm pretty fit to it still and enjoy turning up and shearing, coming home and doing it all again," Jeanine said.

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