Sheep-shearing tale transcends cultural divide

Shearer's tools and equipment
Shearer's tools and equipment
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

Media contact: Karen Meehan

A set of nine sheep-shearing objects telling the story of Koorie contribution in Victoria has been donated to Museum Victoria for the new First Peoples exhibition.

The set of objects, donated by John 'Sandy' Atkinson, a Bangerang Elder from Cummeragunja Mission, consists of a shearer's bale hook, screwdriver, oil can, cutter, combs, shearing handpiece and shears. The tools formerly belonged to the late Mr Jack Williams of Tatura who employed many local shearers including Mr Atkinson.

"My dad was a shearer," said Mr Atkinson. "He heard about this bloke who was a farmer about four miles away. This bloke was shearing, and he looked up and he saw my dad, and he said: 'If you can shear as many sheep as me today, I'll give you the job.' So my dad picked up the handpiece and he did shear more than him. And those two guys become like brothers."

For Amanda Reynolds, Senior Curator, First Peoples, the objects tell a story that is not only positive, but details how much Koorie people contributed to modern Victoria.

"These objects represent a friendship that transcended a cultural divide," said Ms Reynolds. "In the shearing shed you were accepted on your merits as a shearer and how hard you were willing to work. Nothing mattered except doing your part."

The sheep-shearing objects will be displayed in First Peoples, the largest exhibition ever to focus on the story of Aboriginal Victoria from the time of Creation to today.

First Peoples opens to the public on the 7 September, with a public festival day celebrating Koorie culture.

Museum Victoria Public Relations contact:
Karen Meehan, 8341 7136 / 0478 314 014,

For all general public enquiries, contact the museum's Discovery Centre

Image Gallery

Sunbeam shearing handpiece Metal shearer's shears Sunbeam metal master bevel comb