Narrogin shearer Keiah Thompson talks struggles and joys of shearing

Campbell WilliamsonThe West Australian
Keiah Thompson, who will feature in the upcoming SHEAR exhibiton, with his dog.
Camera IconKeiah Thompson, who will feature in the upcoming SHEAR exhibiton, with his dog.

It was once said Australia rode on the sheep’s back — but no one ever said shearing was easy.

Narrogin shearer Keiah Thompson is part of a younger generation of shearers in one of Australia’s oldest industries.

His days hold the promise of back-breaking labour in tough conditions, wrestling sheep for hours on end.

“One of the challenges would be pushing through your pain barriers, being bent over all day with big strong sheep — you get a fair bit of back pain,” Mr Thompson said.

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“It’s a 10-hour day and then also the travelling ... it’s a mentally and physically challenging job.” He starts a typical day by sharpening his combs and cutters, then works a 10-hour stretch, fitting in a couple of smokos and some lunch, before returning home to wash his equipment. The work is rewarding, with camaraderie in the sheds.

“There's always loud music and normally there are a few shearers who’ll sing along,” Mr Thompson said. “It’s an awesome atmosphere, normally.

“We’re all happy and we're racing along with each other.

“We encourage each other to shear more sheep.”

Mr Thompson will feature in local artist Leith Alexander’s SHEAR exhibition, which opened last Saturday. He said the exhibition helped publicise the need for more shearers.

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