Film sheds light on an era of shear­ing

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Perera

A film about the lives of shear­ers who drove the North West sheep in­dus­try in the days be­fore min­ing will soon be re­leased, giv­ing in­sight into a lit­tle-known slice of WA’s his­tory.

Shear­ers — The Truck Days has been made by WA pas­toral rep­re­sen­ta­tive body the Shear­ers and Pas­toral Work­ers So­cial Club to chron­i­cle the his­tory of north­ern shear­ers in the 1920s-1960s, when they trav­elled the vast dis­tances be­tween sta­tions packed onto trucks.

The 32-minute pro­duc­tion con­sists of in­ter­views with six shear­ers and old pho­tos and film footage of the pe­riod.

Shear­ers and Pas­toral Work­ers So­cial Club pres­i­dent Doug Kennedy said the film was a cel­e­bra­tion of an in­dus­try that had been an eco­nomic back­bone of the North West be­fore be­ing largely taken over by min­ing and cat­tle.

The film fo­cuses on an era col­lo­qui­ally called the “truck days”, when trucks were the only mode of trans­port in the iso­lated north, and con­trac­tors packed their teams of shear­ers onto them to travel be­tween sta­tions.

“They were all just dirt roads — there were no bridges, no in­fra­struc­ture,” he said.

“They were away for eight-10 months of the year in those ar­eas go­ing from one sta­tion to the other, and . . . they were very rough con­di­tions, very ba­sic.”

Mr Kennedy said the shear­ing in­dus­try was con­nected to the Pil­bara’s now dom­i­nant re­sources sec­tor, cit­ing Lang Han­cock’s dis­cov­ery of iron ore while manag­ing a sheep sta­tion at Mulga Downs as an ex­am­ple of how “with­out the wool in­dus­try, the min­ing in­dus­try wouldn’t have hap­pened”.

He said the film was a chance to cap­ture a rich part of North West pas­toral his­tory be­fore it was too late.

“A lot of those peo­ple that par­tic­i­pated in the area at that time are age­ing, they’re in their 80s and 90s, and un­less this his­tory is cap­tured in some way it will be lost for­ever,” he said

“There is no recorded his­tory of this, so that’s why we put it to­gether.”

Film­ing of Shear­ers — The Truck Days has fin­ished and it is ex­pected to be re­leased at the end of this month. It will be avail­able at North West lo­cal gov­ern­ment li­braries and mu­se­ums, as well as the Bat­tye Li­brary in Perth.

Pic­ture: Harold Chris­tiansen

Shear­ers pack up their truck at a pas­toral sta­tion in 1953.

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