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At the Rylington Park Institute of Agriculture near Boyup Brook in the Great Southern region of WA, Kevin Gellatly and his partner Amanda Davis, with the support of AWI, run shearer and wool handling training courses throughout the year. These courses are for students of all levels, from complete novices through to professional shearers looking to fine tune their skills.
Over the years, Kevin and Amanda have had many types of shearers come and go through their courses and what Kevin’s seeing now is a shift in demographic. He says that, in the past 20 years, women have dominated across the board in wool handling and classing and now they are branching out into shearing.
He says women are not as strong physically but they “dance around the sheep a lot better than boys or young men” and they’re easier to teach too – they listen better. Because they can’t rely on brute strength their footwork and technique has got to be spot on, so the training courses prove to be a gold mine of knowledge for aspiring female shearers.
Amanda is one such example of how women can excel in the wool industry.
Amanda learnt to shear about 10 years ago but started her wool industry career when she was a teenager. Her father, a wool classer, would take her out on the job through the school holidays and she landed her first paid job as a wool handler at the age of 14. This is where her passion for wool started. She is now a professional wool classer and wool handling trainer alongside Kevin.
“My main aim is to give students as many tools in their back pocket to help them through their career,” Amanda said. “And it’s important for the kids to understand why we do it – not just teaching them that you’ve got to do it.”
When Amanda had learnt all the other skills of the industry she thought she’d try her hand at shearing. Now a qualified Level 2 shearer trainer, Amanda says that “you never stop learning”. Sometimes when there’s a few women in the course who aren’t confident on having a go at shearing, Amanda will jump up on the stand and show them how it’s done – and if Amanda can do it then they’ll have a go too.
“Whether I’m shearing or wool classing, you’re just one of the team. I don’t see it as being male and female, it’s an equal playing field,” she said.
This attitude which Amanda brings to the shed and the training courses helps build confidence in young women and they learn to assume this attitude themselves.
To arrange training in your state, contact Jim Murray (AWI Shearing Industry Development Coordinator) on 0427 460 007 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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