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Beyond the Bale : September 2015
SHEARING AND WOOL HANDLING TRAINERS PROMOTE BEST PRACTICE Sixty of Australia's best trainers, with a total of more than 1200 years of shearing and wool handling experience between them, gathered at AWI's first national consistency workshop at Dookie, Victoria, in June. While AWI has held regional consistency workshops for shearing and wool handling trainers before, this was the first national workshop that has been held. The trainers, from across the country and across the industry, came together to share ideas about how to best train those who will be looking after the national clip for decades to come. The focus was on a practical and hands-on approach to training. The trainers included the best of the best, each with often 20-40 years of working in the industry under their belt. They included inductees in the Australian Shearers' Hall of Fame, such as Ian Elkins (ACT) and Kevin Gellatly (WA); record holders including Brendon Boyle (WA), Michael James Terry (WA) and Laurie Bateman (Qld); Australian representatives in shearing, such as Justin Dolphin (SA); and Australian representatives in wool handling Mel Morris (Tas) and Sarah Moran (Vic). Throughout the three-day workshop, there was an emphasis on sharing best practice techniques amongst the trainers, and the best way to deliver the finest techniques to students. There was also strong interaction between the wool handling trainers and the shearing trainers to ensure the whole shed team works efficiently in clip preparation. While consistency training is mainly focused on teaching novices, trainers also shared best practice tips for all skill levels and sheep types. Of particular note was the learning of a new technique of catch and drag aimed at minimising back injuries. Taught by Pera Davies of Rolleston in New Zealand, the technique -- based on principles borrowed from the Japanese martial art of jujitsu -- involves placing the sheep in a position so that the shearer can use the sheep's own weight and balance rather than having to use the shearer's own force. Popularly known as 'shearjitsu', the shearer hugs the sheep's back from behind and places its head off-centre which pacifies the sheep. After the sheep has been moved, the sheep's back legs are dropped so it sits up automatically ready for shearing. In the shed at Dookie, the trainers practiced the new technique of 'shearjitsu' and provided very positive feedback. The new technique will be rolled out by the trainers to shearers at their training schools. Other sessions at the workshop included: setting up shearing stands and gear maintenance; health, fitness, recovery and injury prevention; how to line up training in woolgrowers' sheds without any negative impact on production; reinforcement of best practice animal welfare practices; and media awareness. AWI shearing industry development coordinator Jim Murray said there are plenty of young people keen to enter the industry but providing consistency in this type of training across the country is vital to maintain and strengthen its professionalism. "Each year AWI funds training for hundreds of shearers and wool handlers in all regions across the country (see opposite). As with all education, it is important to ensure that the trainers themselves are teaching and promoting best practice skills in an effective way. "There are some tremendous trainers, many being the best in their field, and we are lucky they have such a strong commitment to handing on their expertise. Sharing knowledge has always been one of the great aspects of this part of the wool industry." More than 1200 years of shearing and wool handling experience gathered at Dookie in Victoria at the AWI National Consistency Workshop. The very best shearing and wool handling trainers from across the country came together at a national AWI workshop in June to share best practice techniques and ensure that a high level of training is carried out at AWI-funded shearing schools.