By Lucy Kirk
Eryn Smith, a novice female shearer from the Victorian Highlands has recently spent a few weeks in sheds around Condobolin.
She is passionate about her job and constantly looking to improve – but she wants to see more women working in sheds with her, and that means encouraging young girls to give it a go.
Eryn says that, for her, shearing is not just about the job itself – but the lifestyle too.
“I’ve done more travelling in the last few years and seen more of this country than I ever had in my life… you’re so far off the beaten track and in a way, I find such a beauty in these places.”
But the beauty of the shearer’s lifestyle is often tainted by a lack of female presence and role models, discouraging many young girls from ever considering it a possibility.
In Australia, just three percent of the shearing industry is made up by women, but this number is increasing, and Eryn verifies that “there is so much support out there for women shearers, there really is.”
Sadly though, it is still very much a man’s game, with Eryn recalling that “I’ve looked up from shearing a sheep before and guys are standing on the board clapping,” demonstrating the deep gender divide within the industry.
Eryn hopes that if young girls can see her doing it – and doing it well – it will give them the encouragement they need to get up on the board and have a go.
“There’s been a big turning point in the industry, you know, it’s not the fifties anymore and I would push for any girl to give it a go if they wanted to… it’s so incredibly rewarding.”
The Australian Wool Innovation runs free learners shearing courses for anyone interested in improving their shearing ability. The week-long courses aim to promote longevity in the industry by refining style and technique, while also helping to build contacts and connections.