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Beyond the Bale : September 2012
24 ON-FARM FAST FACTS l The country's very first all-female novice shearing course was hosted by TAFE Western at Dubbo, NSW, in May. 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 to join the industry. Fit, wiry men dripping in lanolin- infused sweat may have epitomised the Australian shearer in years gone by, but they've now got competition. Men are increasingly being accompanied on the shearing board by more petite yet determined women who have an equal love of the shearing industry -- and they're here to stay. The country's very first all-female novice shearing course was hosted by TAFE Western at Dubbo, NSW, in May, where 12 women assembled to sharpen their shearing skills. The two-week program focussed on the finer points of shearing technique -- working to balance their 60-kilogram-plus counterparts, instead of trying to overpower them. "It was a great fortnight -- absolutely brilliant!" said TAFE Western shearing trainer, Jim Murray. The course concept was coined after the formation of an exhibition all-female shearing team in February (as featured in the June edition of Beyond the Bale), which sparked plenty of interest among other potential female entrants to the industry. Jim said where female shearers may lack in speed, they excelled in the quality of their work. "The girls have got a lot of empathy when they're shearing a sheep and their hands are naturally light, so they do a very good job on the sheep," he said. "One of the big things this school has done is to allow girls who may not have been confident to have a go in the shed, come here and not be afraid to get in and have a go. "There will be some very good shearers come out of this school and within 12 months a lot of these girls will be shearing 120 and 140 a day, which is where a boy will be in roughly the same timeframe. But it's not always about numbers - it's also about the quality of the job. Plenty of contractors have lost jobs because the quality wasn't there." Jim said he envisaged the opportunity for an all-female 'school mum' shearing team Technique inspires shearer shift September 2012 BEYOND THE BALE to service smaller flocks during school hours. "If you look at Orange, for example, there are a lot of small holdings there with less than a 1000 sheep and a school mum team could go in while the kids are at school to do those sorts of jobs," he said. "There's room in the industry for the all-male teams, the co-ed teams, the all- female teams, and the teams with flexible hours to suit school mums too. "With the national sheep flock rebuilding, we're obviously going to need more shearers to shear these sheep, and what better way to encourage young blokes into the industry than to have young women in the industry? "I know whenever I was working in sheds andagirlcamein,Iwentup10arun!" The 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Agricultural Census put national shearer numbers at 4173, and 97 of these were women. Women are increasingly getting themselves educated to take on male- dominated careers, and this trend is being observed right across Australian agriculture. At Tocal Agricultural College, near Maitland, 72 percent of those enrolled this year are female, and they're being prepared for a high-tech agricultural industry with a greater focus on business skills. The participants in Australia's first all-female novice shearing course.