Shearing camp opens doors for talented youngsters

Bob GarnantCountryman
Leevi Boyce, 12, and Hyden Slater, 25, develop their shearing skills.
Camera IconLeevi Boyce, 12, and Hyden Slater, 25, develop their shearing skills. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

Handpieces and brooms replaced text books and computers as youngsters aged 12 to 27 tested their woolshed skills at a Brookton sheep farm last week.

The Warranine Park Shearing and Woolhandling Camp, held from March 16 to 28, attracted a group of 12 budding young guns to the Walker family’s shearing shed.

The eight-day camp followed the success of similar on-farm shearing camps held in Esperance and Northampton earlier this year, co-ordinated by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and Australian Wool Innovation.

Holly McGuire, 15 and Alister Williams, 18, were learner participants at the woolhandling camp.
Camera IconHolly McGuire, 15 and Alister Williams, 18, were learner participants at the woolhandling camp. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

The Brookton group was in good hands when Countryman stopped by on Friday, the fifth day of the camp, with guest speakers giving them a lot of encouragement.

WA Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer spoke to the trainees about the woolshed employment opportunities.

AWI trainer Barry Ugle demonstrates technique to Arthur Slater, Leevi Boyce, 12, Tyreece Boyce, 16, and Alister Williams.
Camera IconAWI trainer Barry Ugle demonstrates technique to Arthur Slater, Leevi Boyce, 12, Tyreece Boyce, 16, and Alister Williams. Credit: Countryman

“As you may be aware, the coronavirus is a current cause of high unemployment but sheep have to be shorn,” he said. “We (shearing contractors) are screaming out for workers all the time.”

After mandating handwashing and strict hygiene standards, accredited AWI trainer Amanda Davis gave the group a pep-talk — saying the camp provided a “ground-floor opportunity” and allowed participants learn at different levels.

Brookton woolgrower Ellen Walker, of Warranine Park, hosted the shearing and woolhandling training camp.
Camera IconBrookton woolgrower Ellen Walker, of Warranine Park, hosted the shearing and woolhandling training camp. Credit: Countryman

Westcoast Wools director Brad Faithfull said there were limitless job opportunities in the wool industry.

“This is where your career in the wool industry starts, inside a woolshed,” he said.

“If you work as a team, you can shear lots of sheep.”

Trainees (back) David Bennell, 15, Holly McGuire, 15, Leevi Boyce, 12, Tyreece Boyce, 16, and Josh Saunders, 16, (front), Hyden Slater, Alister Williams, Arthur Slater, Teeanna Eades and Oliver Thomas.
Camera IconTrainees (back) David Bennell, 15, Holly McGuire, 15, Leevi Boyce, 12, Tyreece Boyce, 16, and Josh Saunders, 16, (front), Hyden Slater, Alister Williams, Arthur Slater, Teeanna Eades and Oliver Thomas. Credit: Bob Garnant

Brookton District High School student Holly McGuire, 15, said she had always wanted to be a flight attendant, which may have reflected in how brilliantly she flew several fleeces on to the classing table so consistently.

Her grandfather, Kevin Beecroft, runs a sheep farm in Westdale and inspired Ms McGuire to attend the camp.

“I spent many weekends at Pop’s farm,” she said.

“I know how important this (woolhandling) is to the farm.”

Leevi Boyce, 12, and Hyden Slater, 25, develop their shearing skills.
Camera IconLeevi Boyce, 12, and Hyden Slater, 25, develop their shearing skills. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

Ms McGuire said she enjoyed the physical side of working in the wool shed.

“I like the feel and smell of wool,” she said.

Wagin youngster Alister Williams, 18, has been working in woolsheds part time for the past four years.

He finished Year 12 at Wesley College last year and said he was drawn to the wool industry because it gave him the chance to be “financially independent”.

Both his parents are wool shed employees and he has worked beside them as a roustabout at various farms.

Holly McGuire, 15, throws a fleece.
Camera IconHolly McGuire, 15, throws a fleece. Credit: Countryman

“After four days of training, I am feeling very confident shearing sheep,” Mr Williams said.

Pingelly trainee Hayden Slater, 25, said he grew up in Perth and moved to the country four years ago to work as a roustabout in woolsheds.

“I love the atmosphere and all the people are good to work with,” he said.

“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Warranine Park woolgrower Ellen Walker said she was impressed and “amazed” with all the students’ new-found ability.

Warranine Park Shearing and Woolhandling Camp host Ellen Walker, centre, of Brookton, with AWI trainers Todd Wegner, Amanda Davis, Barry Ugle and Kevin Gellatly.
Camera IconWarranine Park Shearing and Woolhandling Camp host Ellen Walker, centre, of Brookton, with AWI trainers Todd Wegner, Amanda Davis, Barry Ugle and Kevin Gellatly. Credit: Countryman

Brookton Senior High School principal Darren Simpson, who had two students attend the camp, said it was important to provide country job opportunities for schoolchildren.

The State Government had planned to run another camp at Wellstead from April 20 to May 1.

An AWI spokesman said the COVID-19 issue meant it would take advice from the State Government, DPIRD and AWI trainers about whether to continue.

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