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COVID cost Sophie her job in Melbourne’s events industry. So she hit the shearing sheds

COVID cost Sophie her job in Melbourne’s events industry. So she hit the shearing sheds

Sophie Allen’s career as a Melbourne tournament dressmaker came to an abrupt halt closing year when COVID-19 restrictions in transient shut down the events industry.

Key points:

  • Australia is in the midst of a shearing shortage
  • It comes as wool prices receive better from a bolt closing year
  • Home Chinese ask is driving the rebound

And not using a work on the horizon, she used to be told by her employer the pandemic restrictions would indicate she could well be “prolonged-term stood down”.

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Those identical restrictions inadvertently opened the door to a original career — one in regional Victoria.

When international borders shut, Australia’s wool industry snappy found itself in the grips of a shearer shortage.

“My boyfriend is a shearer and he stated there used to be a colossal ask for rouseabouts,” Ms Allen stated.

She moved to the miniature metropolis of Balmoral, in Victoria’s western district, and hasn’t regarded assist.

“The income is terribly consistent and I address the work, so it’s turn into a plump-time job,” she stated.

Four women move about a  woolshed carrying wool around wooden tables with light streaming in from outside

Young employees carry wool inside a shearing shed in Western Victoria(

ABC News: Jeremy Myth Carter


A total bunch of Original Zealand employees often wing into Australia to abet shear the clip and shearing crews work for the duration of the country.

This year, Ms Allen’s handiest in another country colleague is Glaswegian backpacker Rhona MacDonald.

Ms MacDonald arrived in Australia closing year and, instead of flying house when the pandemic arrived closing March, she took a role on a Northern Territory cattle property and, later, as a plump-time rouseabout in Victoria.

“I made a decision it could in point of fact perhaps well even be better here, living rurally, and it appears to be like it used to be better than being assist in Scotland,” Ms MacDonald stated.

Excessive ask

Man wearing blue collared shirt concentrates looking at sheep, with more sheep and a motorbike rider in background

Michael Craig counts sheep on his property in Harrow.(

ABC News: Jeremy Myth Carter


Ms Allen and Ms MacDonald are among a team of younger females cobbled together to abet with a six-week shearing program at woolgrower Michael Craig’s West Wimmera farm at Harrow, about 400 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.

“We’re a in reality labour-intensive industry, and this year now we gain build our shed together with a set of varied of us,” Mr Craig stated.

“I think we’re in reality lucky in our shed. There’s a enormous number of varied of us, varied backgrounds, and they all receive along in reality successfully.”

Ms MacDonald has worked in sheds for the duration of Victoria. She stated every shearing program had been held up by a shortage of employees.

“There is a shortage and shearing has been going on loads longer this year.

“Of us often hope to gain their sheep shorn at a certain time, and that’s the reason now not in reality been the case this year.”

Young woman with brown hair sands with arms on side wearing purple shirt inside wooden shearing shed

Scottish backpacker Rhona McDonald says she loves working in Victoria’s shearing sheds.(

ABC News: Jeremy Myth Carter


Market rebound

Inside the woolshed where Ms Allen and Ms MacDonald will work for the next six weeks a sense of optimism hangs in the air.

Initially, the effects of the pandemic and a alternate spat with China looked address they could well also carry prolonged-term damaging penalties for the wool industry.

Whereas of us spherical the world worked from their properties and the likelihood of weddings and events plummeted, so too did the designate of wool.

A row of men shearing sheep as a woman walks past carrying broom inside wooden shearing shed

Finding employees to shear this year’s flock has been challenging.(

ABC News: Jeremy Myth Carter


By September closing year, wool prices had sunk to phases now not seen in 11 years. Then, things began to dramatically toughen.

“We gain long gone from one vulgar to the other, Mr Craig stated.

“Combined with the assemble of drought, there used to be different fine wool on the market and we saw this massive drop in designate nonetheless, 12 months on, surprisingly, we’re assist to level prices before the pandemic.”

Question for tailored woollen clothing address formal suits has nearly evaporated, nonetheless one sparkling location has been a though-provoking uptick in of us wanting happy, sports actions-model woollen clothes.

Australian Wool Innovation CEO Stuart McCullough stated the industry’s push to incorporate wool into excessive-efficiency sporting equipment and further casual kinds of clothing used to be paying off.

“A big amount of wool goes into tailored textiles, so we assemble now not inquire knitwear to supplement that correct at the 2nd,” he stated.

“But it continues to develop — accessories are doing in reality successfully, hats and scarves [are too] attributable to us are walking to work, so these things are doing very successfully.

“Coats are doing very successfully. We’re getting original phases of volume there.”

Three sheep stand in yard with fences, trees and a sunrise visible in background

Freshly shorn sheep leave the shearing shed in the early morning shatter of day.(

ABC News: Jeremy Myth Carter


China is buying nearly 90 per cent of Australia’s wool exports and patrons there are the main offer of ask.

“They’re compulsory to us, because they now not handiest gain the sheer likelihood of of us, they’ve bought the local weather and they gain affluence as successfully,” Mr McCullough stated.

“At the 2nd, from our point of inspect, it’s all about China.”

Carefully knit

Diplomatic tensions between Australia and China gain dealt some bruising blows to Australian agricultural exports over the previous 12 months.

But while the wool alternate confronted some harsh economic headwinds, it has been unaffected by the alternate tensions.

From January, China opened the door to higher volumes of Australian wool.

Mr McCullough stated Australia’s dominance in wool production, and China’s valuable wool processing industry, intended the alternate used to be in a stronger plot than other commodities.

“From a government-to-government point of inspect, now we gain zero regulate,” he stated.

“But from an industry-to-industry point of inspect, now we gain enormous relationships with the Chinese wool industry which gain been constructed over the closing 50 years.”

Man wearing blue collared shirt smiles standing in front of woolshed in early morning light with tree visible in background

Harrow woolgrower Michael Craig aloof has considerations about the prolonged-term safety of the Chinese market.(

ABC News: Jeremy Myth Carter


After watching the alternate tensions play out closing year, Mr Craig has some hesitation about dependency on China as a buyer.

“It be a double-edged sword,” he stated.

“It be enormous now we gain a marketplace for our product and that there’s a in reality devoted processing that goes on in China — that’s unbelievable.

“I’m hoping and pray it by no near occurs, nonetheless what if China without warning did come to a choice to shut the market down?”

A woman throws a fleece inside a woolshed over a wooden table surrounded by workers with light streaming in from outside

Workers will utilize six weeks at the Harrow property as fragment of a shearing blitz.(

ABC News: Jeremy Myth Carter


Reduction in the woolshed, Sophie Allen says she has no intention of moving assist to Melbourne.

Instead, she’s planning on using the money she’s making from working as a rouseabout to begin her maintain regional events firm.

“It be definitely mentally and physically challenging, it pushes you to your physical limits,” she stated.

“But while you are willing to sweat and gain a crack, it is a in reality rewarding industry, too.”

COVID cost Sophie her job in Melbourne’s events industry. So she hit the shearing sheds