In summary the wool industry gave Australia one of the highest living standards in the world for over 100 years. It was no exaggeration to say that the Australian economy rode high on wealth from primary exports, especially sheep.
It is not surprising that one of the all-time favourite Australian paintings was and is Shearing the Rams 1890, a large painting by the nation’s favourite Impressionist artist, Tom Roberts. Shearing the Rams has been reproduced in stamps, posters, history books and art folders ever since Federation, the day (1/1/1901) the separate states came together as a unified, modern nation.
Nothing says "Australian Rural Life" as much as Robert’s rams. And no agricultural show booth is as enticing as those selling local wool products. To give one example, Bennett & Gregor hold sales stalls at agricultural shows and fairs - spouse and I bought matching scarves for all the grandchildren.
Tom Roberts. Shearing the Rams 1890
122 x 183 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
By the 1950s Australia ‘rode on the sheep’s back’; those who raised the sheep and gathered the wool had come to symbolise and epitomise what it was to be Australian. In fact the struggle to survive in the rugged bush environment was said to have moulded the very character of the Australian battler. Of course the ruggedness also reflected the need to survive droughts, bush fires and infestations of small and large animal life, but that doesn’t diminish the back breaking work of shearing sheep in the heat.
Yet within a decade, coal, iron ore and other minerals had replaced wool as the basis of Australia’s economic future; wool farmers struggled to sell their product on world markets and the people of the bush now found themselves marginalised and out of touch with city-based Australian citizens. Young people of my children’s and grandchildren’s generation had never seen millions of sheep being grazed, dipped or sheared.
Turlee Station Stay is a working sheep, cattle and wheat station located next to Mungo National Park, in outback New South Wales. Situated within the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, the station is huge by any standards: 145,000 acres.
wool products at Bennett & Gregor stall, at agricultural shows
One kelpie dog controlled 20 sheep