My name is Helen Carrigan & I am a Director on the WoolProducers Board representing New South Wales Farmers Association (NSWFA) since 2021. I live in Northern NSW near Moree with my husband Chris. We own and operate a dual purpose self-replacing Dohne Merino flock, currently running around 4500 ewes with lambing fully underway for 2022.
Our business like many others in the past two years has faced challenges that continue to remind us how quickly agriculture changes and the importance of being able to adapt and be flexible, I’m loathed to use the word resilient alone as I believe it’s the nature of primary producers to be more than just resilient.
Right now, in wool and sheep meat production we are being faced with challenges and opportunities, not just locally, but state, federally and globally.
My time on the WoolProducers Board has reinforced the importance of working together to advocate for the key issues of biosecurity, access to markets with wool and meat, labour, costs, the heath and welfare of our animals and traceability to mention a few topics. The diversity of voices on the WPA Board encourage robust conversation and perspective to enable a balanced outcome between community expectations, practical outcomes for producers and our social licence to farm.
Since joining the board, we have worked hard on achieving moving the dial for greater knowledge and confidence that the Australian producer grows the best wool in the world and cares for our animals in a professional and sustainable way. The Sheep Sustainability Framework (SSF) which has been developed with WPA, Sheep Producers (SPA), MLA and AWI show a clear pathway to the world that we can make these statements about our products and animals confidently. Can I encourage producers to have a look at the SSF and see how we can and are strengthening our industry to the world.
We care about shearer availability, shearing shed safety and traceability. I’m humbled to be a part of the wonderful progression of our industry both in NSW and nationally.
One of the issues that has strongly interested me is the wool harvesting industry and specifically bringing young people into the industry who want to have a career in wool.
Through NSW Farmers I have been involved in the formation of the Wool Technical Advisory Group (WoolTAG). The aim of this group is to focus on sheep and wool workforce issues, specifically on the attraction, training and retention of shearers and wool classers to ensure there is a continuing supply of people who are well trained.
One of our strengths of the group is the coordinated approach NSW WoolTAG has in working with representatives from AWI, TAFE, Shearing Contractors Association of Australia, NSW DPI, AAT, Wool Brokers, and Shearers so we are addressing the specific needs of training and delivery that is relevant and practical to the industry.
The NSW model is based on the successful SA WoolTAG. Other states are now looking to form their own models of WoolTAG which is pleasing to hear as WoolProducers have long advocated to have a national WoolTAG body. This is a strong way to address the short-term shearer shortage which will bring long term gain for the wool industry.
It’s often forgotten the purpose or role of good advocacy and what it can achieve. WPA are working for not only its members, but the industry with sound policy and lobbying where it does make a difference.
I am confident that the wool industry has a bright future and the advocacy that WPA continues to do will help put us in a strong position to continue doing what we love, producing healthy happy animals and growing wool.