In Australia, just three percent of the shearing industry is made up of women. Eryn Smith is a novice female shearer from the Victorian Highlands and she wants to see more women joining the industry.
Eryn Smith began shearing four years ago when she was offered a go on the handpiece while working in a shed in Ivanhoe, NSW, and she’s never looked back. She’s just been offered her first full time permanent shearing contract in Victoria.
Eryn says that, for her, shearing is not just about the job itself, it’s 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 beauty in these places,” Eryn said.
But the beauty of her lifestyle is often tainted by a lack of female presence and role models, which she knows discourages many young girls from ever considering shearing a possibility.
Eryn verifies that it's not for lack of the industry welcoming women in.
“There is so much support out there for women shearers, there really is.”
Eryn recalls a time when she looked up from shearing a sheep and guys were standing on the board clapping her in support.
She 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.”
Australian Wool Innovation runs free learners shearing courses for anyone interested in improving their shearing ability. Eryn says that these week-long courses aim to promote longevity in the industry by refining style and technique, while also helping to build contacts and connections.
Gender equality is something that seems to get a lot of air-time in public discourse, but the reality of it can be daunting. The only way forward, Eryn says, is to mimic the AWI’s efforts to create safe and rewarding environments where women feel supported and encouraged. Otherwise, we will never get there.
Written for AuctionsPlus by Lucy Kirk