FORMER sheep shearing world record holder Jills Angus Burney visited Clunes for its annual show at the weekend.
Ms Angus Burney, a New Zealander, began shearing sheep at age 14 as a way to make some pocket money. That was over 40 years ago.
“I grew up in an area where there was a lot of stud stock and there was no shortage of farm work back in those days,” she said.
“I very quickly developed a passion for it. I was babysitting for a shearer down the road who was in one of the first New Zealand shearing teams in the Trans Tasman competition… I watched him shearing at competitions and was entranced.”
She eventually came to Australia to learn how to shear but said it was no easy feat.
“At that time there were probably only three women shearers among the 50,000 shearers working across the whole of Australia.”
She said many contractors weren’t keen to have a woman shear, so “a combination of persistence and resilience” is what landed her where she is today.
Ms Angus Burney went on to travel the world as a competitive shearer before she had a back accident while shearing merinos at age 30.
She studied at university, continuing to shear sheep part-time, before completing a Masters in Social Science and Law. She now works as a solicitor and barrister in the High Court of New Zealand and continues to shear.
“I am teased a lot for have sheep sh** on the brain,” she laughed. “I shore my way into the open grade and have been there for 30 years now.”
She said “women always compete with men” as there were no separate shearing competitions for women. She was the first woman to make it into the esteemed Golden Shears Final in Euroa in 1981.
For 18 years she held the world record for shearing 541 sheep in a nine hour day. She was also the first woman to ever shear 600 lambs.
Ms Angus Burney is the star of a new film She Shears about five “gutsy” women competition shearers who share a love of a male-dominated industry.