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Beyond the Bale : June 2015
44 ON FARM Shearer trainer Kevin Gellatly from Western Australia imparts the same skills that he learnt at a shearing school in the mid-1960s to the students that he teaches today. Kevin was this year inducted into the Australian Shearers’ Hall of Fame at Shear Outback. THE SHEDS A LIFE IN Renowned shearer Kevin Gellatly from Western Australia learnt the shearing skills that were to set him up for life, at a shearing school being run in the mid-1960s on a property close to his family’s farm at Perenjori, 350km north of Perth. Fifty years on, Kevin is now the teacher, imparting those valuable skills to a new generation of shearers in the state. Such has been his contribution to the shearing industry, that Kevin had the honour in April to be inducted into the Australian Shearers’ Hall of Fame at Shear Outback in the NSW town of Hay. “It was a real privilege for me to be amongst such a very distinguished group of shearers,” Kevin said. “I’m very humbled by the award and that so many family, friends and colleagues travelled to Hay to witness the event. I relived a lot of good memories. There is a great camaraderie in the shearing community.” Not long after the celebrations, he was back doing what he loves the best: teaching young shearers. He has been a shearing teacher for the past 15 years, largely at C.Y. O'Connor Institute at Narrogin, and most recently for AWI at Rylington Park Institute of Agriculture, near Boyup Brook, along with his partner Amanda Davis. “We hold one-week residential classes here with about a dozen in each class,” he said. “Most students already have some shed experience, but we’re happy to take on rookies if they’re keen. We teach skills like wool handling and wool pressing, as well as shearing, because it’s often these skills that get youngsters their first jobs in the industry. “I teach the shearing students two main things: firstly, how to get ‘on the skin’ so there are no cuts; and secondly, skills to ensure the shearer’s longevity in the industry, such as getting the sheep in the right position so it becomes passive and won’t tire out the shearer. These are the skills that I learnt when I first started shearing and have been using throughout my career.” After his initial training in the mid-1960s, Kevin worked for a few years on the ‘north- west run’ in the Gascoyne region on large pastoral properties, which he looks back on as some of the best times of his life. He then became a contractor with his two brothers, Lyn and Rod, for the next 24 years working out of Perenjori, often passing on his shearing skills to the youngsters in his teams. He moved to Perth in the late 1980s to further the education of his children, Joanne and Kevin Jr, and in 1995 began as a representative for Heiniger traveling all across Australian and New Zealand. As well as trialing new products, he held workshops on grinding and handpiece maintenance, something which he says had been neglected by shearers in the past. The Heiniger job enabled him time to take up teaching shearing professionally at agricultural colleges, about which he is passionate. “I’ve always had a strong interest for training people how to shear and handle wool in the sheds,” he said. “There were very few schools when I started out; I was lucky to attend one, and I’ve never looked back. Now I pass on those skills I’ve learnt to others. “From when I was young, shearing was always my destiny. I was encouraged from a young age by my mother Beryl who has continued to provide me with great support over the years. But some kids I see coming into the schools are sometimes lacking a direction in life. When they get in the sheds though, and if they have a connection with the sheep, they often thrive and have a new impetus in life by the time they leave the school at the end of the week. I like to think Kevin Gellatly (right) with his son Kevin Jr (left) after being inducted into the Australian Shearers’ Hall of Fame in April. The other inductees this year were the late Mark Conlan of Kyneton, Victoria; the late Maurice Doyle of Dookie, Victoria; Dick Duggan of Maryborough, Victoria; and Ian Elkins of Canberra who, like Kevin, is also an AWI shearer trainer.