Shearer school shortage fix

Shearer school shortage fix

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Bungarby's Dave and Nicole Murphy aren't ones to be complacent which is why they organised a shearing school.

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Intermediate shearers on the board in the AWI shearing school at Kanowie, Bungarby. Photos: Nicole Murphy

Intermediate shearers on the board in the AWI shearing school at Kanowie, Bungarby. Photos: Nicole Murphy

When Dave and Nicole Murphy of Kanowie at Bungarby added the neighbouring Kangaroo Camp of 1050 hectares as a leased block to their family farm, they encountered a few shearing problems.

This wasn't uncommon across the Australian wool industry where the shortage of skilled shearing and shed hand staff has been an underlying problem for a few years.

But while they recognised and were affected by the problem, the Murphys were not prepared to be complacent and wait for the industry to catch up - they set in motion a training program on their southern Monaro woolgrowing property to introduce young people to the career opportunities available in the wool industry.

AWI shearing instructor, Ian Elkins, helps three learners.

AWI shearing instructor, Ian Elkins, helps three learners.

The Murphys are working in conjunction with their shearing contractor, Miners Brothers Shearing Contractors Pty Ltd, Cooma, operated by Glen and Sophie Miners and Brad and Jacquelle Miners to hold a shearing school on Kanowie.

"It was to try and address the issue of a shortage of shearers, shed hands and wool classers because we can't do without them if we are to continue growing wool," Mr Murphy said.

"And likewise they can't do without the wool growers."

At the end of March, the school was conducted in the state-of-the-art shearing shed built in 2013 on Kanowie, when the Murphys shedded their Hazeldean-blood weaners.

The team with Craig French, Ian Elkins, Dave Murphy.

The team with Craig French, Ian Elkins, Dave Murphy.

The shearing shed meets all of the current health and safety requirements, so Mr Murphy said he and Nicole decided to step up to the plate and use of the shed for the purpose of training future shed staff.

"We had two shearing instructors over the three days, Ian Elkins and Stuart Neil from Australian Wool Innovation and one stand was set aside for learner shearers, and the other three stands were for the intermediates - those who have been shearing for a while but still needed a bit more guidance to improve their skills," Mr Murphy said.

He said the three-day school was a great success, especially for woolgrowers on the Monaro.

"We are always hearing about shearing schools in the Riverina and out past Dubbo, but the Monaro is a major Merino breeding region and wool has always been important to us," he said.

"We had threelearners and three intermediate shearers along with a couple of shed hands and a wool classer.

"All were very keen and all thought it wonderful to be given the opportunity to see what was involved with working in a shearing team."

The next step is another school when the wethers are shorn during the first week of November.

"Again in conjunction with AWI's program manager for wool harvesting, training and development, Craig French, and Miners Brothers Shearing Contractors Pty Ltd we will have another school," Mr Murphy said.

"And at that time get a lot more publicity and get some of the high schools across the Monaro involved and bring the students out and see the industry and maybe entice them to take up shearing or working in wool sheds."

By holding these schools, Mr Murphy said it was his and Nicole's way of saying thanks to the industry which had been so good for his family for a long time.

"We were not going to just sit on our hands and complain about the shortage," he said.

"I think every wool grower has the responsibility to try and do something for the industry. We are growing the wool, we need the shearers and the shearers need the woolgrowers - we need to work hand in hand, not in opposition to each other and encourage those who are coming up and want to do it.

"But it is not just the shortage of shearers - we definitely need to address the wool handling and wool classing issue and right through to the wool presser."

Mr Murphy advised those who are contemplating a career shearing or working in wool sheds, a good income can be earned.

"There is good money to be made if you are good at it," he said. "I know it is hard work but it is a rewarding industry.

"As a wool grower I believe we have to do something about the training of future staff and not just leave it to the wool industry groups."

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