29 February 2024

Quick shear campaign to help take care of the silent shearer

| John Thistleton
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Bailey O’Rafferty, a prolific winner of quick shear competitions in NSW including Binda, with his daughter Gracie.

Bailey O’Rafferty, a prolific winner of quick shear competitions in NSW including Binda, with his daughter Gracie. He will be back on 14 September to defend his title at Crookwell. Photo: O’Rafferty family.

Bailey O’Rafferty loves travelling for hours across NSW to catch up with his shearing mates. Then he goes to war with them in speed shearing contests. And wins almost every time.

“As soon as you are up on stage you are in a war with them, and as soon as you are off stage, you’re straight back to being best friends again,” he says.

He gave up shearing when he broke his back in a world record attempt. Now a contractor, he has defied predictions that he’d never shear again. He no longer shears for a living, but is winning quick shear prize money of $5000 to $10,000 everywhere – Binda, Adelong, Cootamundra, Ganmain, Dubbo, Gulargambone, Nyngan and Temora.

“I’m no better than the other top 10 fast blokes. It’s how you control your lamb on the day,” he says.

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An even bigger war than Bailey’s frequent battles is being waged in the shearing industry against mental illness. Working away from home in tough conditions can take a toll. Consequently, organisers of Binda’s inaugural quick shear last year which Bailey won, aim to raise awareness of mental health at their next quick shear contest on 14 September.

Quick Shear Inc president Jodie Garnham said they were teaming up with workwear retailer TradeMutt, formed by two mates in the building industry, after one of their best mates had tragically and unexpectedly taken his own life.

Binda Quick Shear organisers Angela Ayad, Alexander Johnston, Bernadette Howard and Jodie Garnham

Binda Quick Shear organisers Angela Ayad, Alexander Johnston, Bernadette Howard and Jodie Garnham. This year they are helping neighbouring village Bigga. Photo: Binda Quick Shear.

Quick Shear Inc and TradeMutt are creating a custom-designed, long sleeve, shearing industry-themed work shirt. Jodie says the loud, vibrant shirts are aimed at getting people in the industry, which is known for camaraderie, to start conversations.

“TradeMutt has a QR code under the top left flap of the shirt pocket,” Jodie said. “When scanned the code links with TIACS, a free mental health counselling service for Australia’s blue-collar community. TIACS will provide up to eight sessions free of charge and guarantee you get the same person to talk to each time,” she said.

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Jodie said shearers suffering from mental illness could not afford to take a day off work to get the professional counselling they needed. For starters they would lose $400 to $500 for not shearing that day. “Besides, a lot of them work for contractors and you can’t just keep taking days off willy-nilly or they’ll get someone to replace you,” she said.

Shearers spend a lot of time away from their families. Jodie gives the example of her husband Terry, a full-time shearer.

“Since Christmas my husband has been to six camp-out sheds,” she said. “He was away for three weeks at the start of the year; he came home and stayed home each night and travelled each day. Since then he has done five other camp-out sheds, leaving Monday morning crack of [dawn] and doesn’t get home until late Friday night.”

The inaugural Binda Quick Shear last year raised almost $10,000

The inaugural Binda Quick Shear last year raised almost $10,000 which was distributed to the Binda Primary School ( $5800), Meals on Wheels ($1280), Progress Association (about $2000) and Rural Fire Service ($780). More than 350 people attended. Photo: Binda Quick Shear.

This year the Quick Shear Inc will be at the Crookwell Showground, a new and permanent location for future events. Funds raised will go to neighbouring village Bigga community, including to their school and Rural Fire Service.

Small communities across the Southern Tablelands will, in future years, benefit from the annual quick shear, but the event itself will remain at Crookwell Showground, which offers more toilets, undercover options, parking and the space for the popular event to grow.

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available on 1300 659 467.

Original Article published by John Thistleton on About Regional.

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