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Reconciling with the past

A Merino sheep station in a spectacular setting on Bruny Island is heralding better times ahead for indigenous Tasmanians.

Story and photos Tim Dub

“I love that smell,” says Bruce Michael, inflating his chest to better appreciate the unmistakable reek of countless sheep that falls, almost like a solid block, through the open doorway of the shearing shed. Before him is a scene of frantic activity; life on fast-forward.

Leaning through collar-shaped harnesses suspended from the ceiling, eight shearers work intently with rapid blows of their shears, each gripping an immobilised Merino that, separated from its fleece like a banana from its peel, is dragged away to be replaced a few moments later with a struggling newcomer. Two shed-hands sweep constantly to retrieve any residues, while the roustabout gathers a fleece and, with a great throw, unfurls it like a blanket in front of the wool-classers at their bench. The initial impression of chaos recedes as the rhythm of the process becomes apparent. From the classers, the fleece goes to the bins, then on to be pressed into 200 kilogram bales stored neatly against a far wall, en route to the mills and wool factories of the world – in this case, Burlington, USA.
This is Murrayfield Station, with approximately 15,000 Merinos and 4000 hectares extending over a third of North Bruny, one of two islands connected only by a narrow isthmus that together comprise Bruny Island, off the south-east coast of Tasmania. With 16 kilometres of coastline (and a boundary of similar length bordering the river-like channel), rounded hills and forested reserves, Murrayfield is a spectacularly beautiful property, as well as a place of great historical significance. On this land, the wheel of history has very nearly turned a full circle. Story end

Full story OUTBACK Issue 37 October/November 2004

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