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Beyond the Bale : June 2012
June 2012 BEYOND THE BALE 30 ON-FARM FAST FACTS lSeven young women shearers and shed hands have formed an all- female shearing team. l More women are showing an interest in joining the shearing industry, as shearers as well as wool handlers. l An increased focus on shearing technique rather than shear power is allowing the women -- of all shapes and sizes -- to join the industry. It's a quintessential rural Australian scene: rugged yet focussed men in singlets working at a constant pace around an equally rugged shearing shed; thick, hot air filled with a mix of men's sweat and lanolin; and AM radio crackling from a small, discrete box in the corner. This scene that is so familiar to many couldn't have been further from reality at a Central West NSW shearing in February. Instead, high-pitched laughter that was unmistakably female could be heard in competition with R&B music blaring form a nearby amplifier – connected to an iPhone. How times have changed! Seven young women shearers and shed hands set out in February to form an all-female shearing team. Not only were they waving the flag for women in the shearing industry, they also made history by forming the first all- female team. The team comprised: Katherine Syrch, Enngonia; Emma Billett, Nevertire; Laurel Thonbury, Dubbo; Donna Hylands, Wakool; Liz McGaw, Brocklehurst; Shireen Monds, Bathurst; and New Zealand-born Adele Gulliver of Penshurst, Victoria. These relative strangers were brought together by a common passion for their industry, and friendships were formed from the experience – one team member even likened the experience to 'a big Girl Guides Camp'. Co-organiser, Katherine Syrch, 30, started shearing four years ago. She spent her earlier years travelling and was working in a hay mill in Western Australia in 2006 when she met a team of shearers. She was later working at a nightclub in Victoria when she met up with one of those shearer contacts and three weeks later, she landed herself a job as a roustabout at Penola, South Australia. Katherine soon took an interest in shearing and completed a shearing school at Dubbo, NSW, in 2008. She went on to earn her first full-time shearing stand later that year and hasn't looked back. "I got my first 200 (shorn in a day) with Merino ewes in April so I reckon my boss's proud to have given me a stand now, and he tells me to chase the boys all the time," Katherine said. "I've found the industry really accepting of women and I really love it – it gets in your blood. It’s competitive, physical, challenging. I think it's also about the lifestyle: the travel, the people you meet, and the atmosphere in general." Katherine said forming an all-female shearing team in February met its objectives. "We knew having an all-girl shearing team hadn't been done before so wanted to do it to bring some exposure to the industry and the role women play in it," 'DUCKS ON THE POND!' (Back row, left to right): Katherine Syrch, Enngonia; Emma Billett, Nevertire, Adele Gulliver, Penshurst, Victoria (New Zealand born); Laurel Thornbury, Dubbo. (Front row, left to right): Liz McGaw, Brocklehurst; Donna Hulands, Wakool; and Shireen Monds, Bathurst. IN TIMES GONE BY, A SHEARER WOULD CALL OUT, 'DUCKS ON THE POND!', IF HE SAW A WOMAN APPROACH THAT EXCLUSIVELY MALE TERRITORY -- THE SHEARING SHED. THE CALL WAS A SIGNAL TO ALL THE SHEARERS TO REFRAIN FROM SWEARING UNTIL THE WOMAN HAD GONE.