Truth about wool tour
IT’S just her, a camera and a burning vision to share the truth about the wool industry.
Well, actually, it’s more like her, her shearer partner and an eight-month-old baby on the road in a 22-foot caravan, bouncing their way through sheep country in New South Wales and Victoria.
Chantel McAlister, owner of Chantel Renee Photography, is revamping and reinvigorating her Truth About Wool campaign.
The concept was launched when Chantel became fed up with seeing incorrect information being peddled about the wool industry – sometimes by animal activism groups – so she wanted to do her bit to spread the honest story about how the fibre is produced in Australia.
She threw her full focus behind the idea and she quit her job as a wool classer in late 2016.
After months on the road, her tour took her as far south as Tasmania, and along the way she shared countless stories and photos of shearers, wool classers, wool handlers and producers.
She made her way back home to Queensland in time for the arrival of her first son, Travis. As the family is now
relying on Jason, her full-time shearer partner, they have made the tough call to head south as work has become too sporadic for them in Queensland. This week, somewhere just outside of Goondiwindi where there was phone reception, Chantel chatted to the Rural Weekly about her new life on the road.
What’s prompted the shift from Queensland?
There just aren’t enough sheep. You really have to travel a lot to just get four weeks of work. And since having Trav we bought a caravan, so we just thought, “let’s hit the road”.
Is it sad to leave?
At first, we were really excited, and I thought this was a chance for me to revamp my
Truth About Wool tour and I would be able to get more shearing contacts. But now that it is actually happening I am getting sentimental. When we finished up yesterday I said to Jase that we had been coming here for more than 10 years. You watch how properties evolve and flocks evolve. We are very close to our team, so being forced to leave is quite sad.
Is this an industry trend? Have you seen other shearers or classers move south chasing more secure work?
Well, I don’t know many personally. I do know around Longreach shearing used to be huge out there. And when that started to finish up people either left the industry or moved down south. So they shifted their whole families south so they could support them.
Where are you off to?
It will either be Hay, or down to Yass.
You spent a lot of time on the road with your tour last time, how do you think that will compare to making this shift with your family?
I feel like this will be a breath of fresh air. When I did the tour last time I really felt under the pump. I had set myself a deadline of getting it done by the end of the year. This time I have given myself until 2019. I feel like I will have more time for people, I should be able to tell their stories better and be a bit more creative.
So what can we expect this time?
Well... I have a drone now. I want to do a lot more live stuff too. I think I will have a stronger focus on Instagram. It’s a good platform as it’s visually based. I want to do more of the everyday – just walk people through the wool shed doors and show them the action. It will mean they can see what a day is like on a farm.
What drives your passion about this cause?
When you work in the shearing industry they say it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. I am so in love with it, and I just feel I have the skills that can lift it up and make a difference to the industry. Because I can’t class now with little Trav, I do feel like I am giving back. I want to give back to the industry that has given so much to me.
What were your thoughts on the mainstream media’s coverage of the drought?
I feel like when that media circus went on in NSW... when it was three weeks where you couldn’t turn the TV on without seeing it, I feel they only portrayed a small minority of farmers who weren’t prepared for the drought. I know some of them went through fire then the drought hit, they all had their own story. But I felt there weren’t enough stories of the people who are thriving through drought, or people
who are survivors of drought. In Queensland we still have properties that have a flock size that’s growing every year. It’s not all people being forced to shoot 12,000 sheep. To have all farmers and the drought tarred with the same brush was unfair.
Last time you set a goal of making your Truth About Wool website higher up the Google search options than sites organised by animal activist groups. You achieved that. What’s the goal for this tour?
I have one that’s very ambitious, I am not sure I will get it. What I would like to do is see the hashtag Truth About Wool reach 10,000 on Instagram. I feel that’s the platform where I
will reach the most people.
Among our readers we have plenty of families who spend time on the road with kids. Have you got any tips for people travelling long distances with their family?
For every 100km, you need to add on 20 minutes of baby time.
That can be for feeding or crying or whatever.
And the other thing is to downsize. If you don’t need it, don’t carry it. I have about six pairs of pants and two sets of boots, one for work and one for play. Less is best.
Great tips! How have you and Jason adjusted to parenthood?
There is so much more to it than what we thought there would be. Trav is a chilled-out little kid. If he is crying I will put him in his pram and take him to the shed. He just loves it, even if there are dogs barking and he is next to a press. There are challenging days but he is so funny and brings us so much joy. He already owns a hand piece and two sheep – but there is no pressure!
Sounds like he is on track for a career in the wool industry.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Just if there is anyone willing to share their story to get in touch with me.
Everyone has a story worth sharing.
TRUTH SNAPSHOTS: Chantel will capture images showing the everyday on properties, like this image on Waroo.
Jason Murray and Chantel McAlister are heading south to chase more secure work.
A quiet moment between Luke Churchward and a lamb.
Young Travis loves being among the shearing action.
This 22-foot trailer will be the full-time home for Chantel and her family.