Truth about wool tour

Central and North Rural Weekly - - NEWS - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­

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.

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