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Beyond the Bale : Aug 07 - Sep 07
are members of a local farm group, which also keeps us up-to-date on some of the latest farming techniques. But our farming is also influenced by the fact that we inherited top-quality sheep and have a good bloodline." For many in the industry, the 200-year milestone is an opportunity to profile its modern face. Champion shearer Dwayne Black, who holds six shearing records, feels it is important that workers such as shearers -- who have in many ways been the historic face of the industry -- are seen as modern-day professionals, who must maintain a high level of physical fitness and technical skill to meet the demands of their job. "There is a perception of shearers as hard-working drinkers and smokers," Mr Black says. "But like others in the wool industry, we have changed with the times. "I focus on the sport aspect of the business, because at the top level we really are athletes in terms of our physical performances." Mr Black says he can see the same increasing professionalism in the younger generation of shearers in the industry who, like him, are passionate about wool as a fibre and about the history and romance of wool. Gunning NSW woolgrower Kelly Dowling's family has been in the industry for six generations: "Wool has played a part in making me who I am," she says. "I believe that the wool industry has so many opportunities and I want to push it along, to make it work not just for our business but for the whole industry. "My vision is for wool to gain a greater market share and an increased profile, as well as an improved image for the Merino as a breed. "Like many other woolgrowers I also want to challenge and change the negative perception some people have of farming and farmers. I want people to Australian sheep-breeders recreated the short-stapled Spanish Merino to meet the demands from the new industrialised combing, spinning and weaving machines of the industrial revolution. The result was cheaper, lighter and higher- quality fabrics. 11 MERINO 200 BEYOND THE BALE 1870 For the past quarter of a century wool prices had been rising: a golden age for many wool producers. firm on history know that we are an innovative industry and we are making smart decisions in the way we farm. We are here not because we have to be, or because we can't do anything else, but because we made a conscious decision to work in an industry we love, and to make a difference." Armidale's Liz Foster sees wool from the farm and the fashion-industry perspective. The organiser of Australia's largest wool fashion awards, the Australian Wool Fashion Awards (TAWFA), she also runs 3000 superfine Merinos with her husband on a property in New England, NSW. "The world's leading designers and fashion houses recognise that wool is a wonderful fibre," Ms Foster says. "Through the awards I can see there is a bright future for wool as it continues to be the fibre of choice for designers. "Innovative products that exemplify Australian wool's advantages, and add new characteristics that consumers want, are fundamental to the ongoing success of Australian Merino and ensuring continued demand for Australian wool. "Wool is our life," she says, adding that she and her husband are fifth-generation woolgrowers. "I would like to see wool back to being a profitable commodity for woolgrowers -- as it was in the boom days," Ms Foster says. "By educating and encouraging consumers and designers about wool we are ensuring continued demand for Australian wool, which will mean the greatest return to woolgrowers." Tony Overton, a woolgrower from Walcha in northern NSW, says his approach to farming and wool growing is influenced by his father, an engineer by trade, who packed up and went farming in his mid-20s. He moved to Gravesend, where Tony grew up on a mixed sheep, cattle and cropping enterprise. He believes that it is important for woolgrowers to be more focused on the end product. "Many people see their clip leave the farm gate and that is the last they think about it, but I believe we need to be thinking more about the end product -- the fashion side of the business," Mr Overton says. "We need to be thinking of our wool as a boutique product that is in demand throughout the world. New technology is delivering some exciting outcomes for wool garments, and wool is now in demand in Asia, Europe and the US. "We need to think of ourselves as people in the textile industry. It is a slight shift in thinking but an important one." ú "Our vision is pretty ambitious. We want to breed a new Merino that has low inputs, in terms of labour and chemicals, that is organic and produces a natural soft fibre, giving profitability back to the grower." Fourth-generation South Australian woolgrower Cameron England says there seems to be a positive future for wool and he is confident that there will always be demand for the fibre: "As an industry we are always looking for new markets, and it is encouraging that wool is now being used in everything from sportswear to underwear," he says. "Dad and I have both completed the Prograze® course, which has influenced the way we farm, and we Woolgrower Adam Stobart from Carrick, northern Tasmania. TIM DUB 1850 Between 1830 and 1850 the value of wool exports increased from £2 million to £41 million. 1852 French and Belgian textile companies were anxious to organise direct sales with Australian wool producers, and they began to send representatives to the colonies. Some eventually established permanent offices in Australia. 1870s Victoria, with the aid of a duty against imports from every part of the world, became the centre of woollen manufactures in Australia. It remained the hub even in the 1970s, when the industry reached its peak as an employer. 1860
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Jun 07 - Jul 07 Supplement