Wagin Woolorama cancellation shows how ‘critically important’ it is for regional events to go ahead next year

Peter Rundle Countryman
The Wagin Woolorama in 2009. Wagin Woolorama
Camera IconThe Wagin Woolorama in 2009. Wagin Woolorama Credit: Supplied

In this new world where nothing seems the same, the Wagin Woolorama was one thing we could look forward to.

For exhibitors, trade representatives, businesses and visitors, the Woolorama is a 12-month plan.

The president, committee and volunteers should be held in high esteem for the way they navigated their way through a difficult situation.

Having held the event during the past two years of uncertainty, this year, for all intents and purposes, promised to be the most certain of all.

Enter Omicron.

The virus keeps sending down curve balls and making us accept rules which seem illogical to the way we have been living our day-to-day lives.

The changing landscape has meant the Woolorama has had to be cancelled because it does not fit the Government’s health advice for large crowds.

I worked with the president and the committee for a couple of days to try to work out how they could keep the event going within the strict rules.

Once critical agencies pulled out because of the risk of infection to their workers, it was obvious the Wagin Woolorama could not proceed.

I admit to feeling a heavy sadness that they had to make this decision when, two years ago, no one could have foreseen we would still be under the rules of COVID-19.

What will we miss the most? For me, it is the people.

Whether it is the sheep breeders, exhibitors or visitors, there is always someone who wants to have a chat.

The Nationals tent is always a magnet for those wanting a cup of tea, a bit of shade and a chair to have a rest in.

Not to mention the people who want to discuss their concerns with the visiting members of Parliament.

It is the one event in my calendar each year where I get to see a whole range of people who may or may not be constituents but who want to have their voices heard.

Together with the Newdegate Machinery Field Days, these important events are a conduit for information for me and for our team.

As the patron of the Woolorama, I am very much aware of my role in supporting and promoting this event.

It is by no means a difficult task because of the excellent reputation of the Woolorama, and I am honoured to hold this position.

The Woolorama has grown during its 50 years to be the premier event for sheep and wool in WA.

Not only has this incredible community been able to sustain the event through the most difficult years for sheep growers, it has grown in size and reputation every time it is held.

This can only be achieved because of the people who work behind the scenes building the event during the 12 months leading up to it, the people who work during the two days, and the support crews, agencies and businesses which regularly sign up to make the trek to Wagin each year.

Since the border opening and the spread of the Omicron variant, we have had to follow rules which seem to change as the public question the logic.

This is not the place to criticise the McGowan Government — but for the community to follow rules, they have to be fair and reasonable, and the information needs to be readily available, consistent, and have clarity.

The president and committee of the Woolorama have done everything asked of them.

There was always a risk that the event might be challenged, but right up to the last day, we expected it to go ahead.

Right now, they need to know the WA Government has their back.

This critically important event in our calendars will be back next year, but to soften the blow, the McGowan Government needs to acknowledge the contribution it makes and to help finance its losses.

News from the past month has been horrendous.

War, fire, floods, and the deaths of our Australian sporting heroes who meant so much to us have given us moments to reflect on what is important to each of us.

We are nothing if not resilient and adaptable.

I look forward to seeing you all next year at the 50th Wagin Woolorama.

Peter Rundle is The Nationals WA Roe MP, the Wagin Woolorama event patron, and a Katanning farmer.

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