Film salutes northern shearing history

Alicia PereraThe West Australian
Shearers packing up their truck at a pastoral station in 1953.
Camera IconShearers packing up their truck at a pastoral station in 1953. Credit: Harold Christiansen

A film about the lives of shearers who drove the North West sheep industry in the days before mining gives insight into a little-known slice of WA’s history.

Shearers — The Truck Days was made by WA pastoral representative body the Shearers and Pastoral Workers Social Club to chronicle the history of northern shearers in the 1920s-60s, when they travelled vast distances between stations.

The 32-minute production comprises interviews with six shearers and old photos and film footage of the period.

SPWSC president Doug Kennedy said the film was a celebration of an industry that had been an economic backbone of the North West before being largely taken over by mining and cattle.

The film focuses on an era colloquially called the “truck days”, when trucks were the only mode of transport in the isolated north, and contractors packed their teams of shearers onto them to travel between stations.

“They were all just dirt roads — there were no bridges, no infrastructure,” he said.

“They were away for eight to 10 months of the year in those areas, going from one station to the other, and ... they were very rough conditions, very basic.”

Before cattle became the dominant livestock in the 1970s, northern pastoral stations ran thousands of sheep with shearing teams travelling north from Perth. Mr Kennedy said the film was a chance to capture a rich part of North West pastoral history before it was too late.

“A lot of those people that participated in the area at that time are in their 80s and 90s, and unless this history is captured in some way it will be lost forever,” he said.

The film is available for viewing at North West local government libraries and museums and Battye Library in Perth.

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