Representing Victoria: Erin Douglas (18)

 

Erin is the Victorian state finalist at the 2021 Agricultural Shows Australia National Young Judges finals held at the Royal Queensland Show. Agricultural Shows of Australia sat down with Erin to learn a bit about her passion for everything ovine. Did you know? Erin has recently been made WoolProducers Australia youth ambassador.

I’m from the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, which is south of Melbourne. We are surrounded by small studs and hobby farms, with rolling paddocks in one direction and the ocean in the other. I am now studying at the University of New England in Armidale, which is the administrative city of the Northern Tablelands, half way between Brisbane and Sydney.

With stunning views and countless waterfalls, Merino wool is the prime production of this gorgeous area.

At the age of 12 I started working with my high school’s livestock show team, where I fell in love with wool and sheep. Now, at 18, I co-own over 150 stud Corriedales whom we show around Victoria. Throughout 2020, while completing year 12 at home in lockdown, I founded and ran a first-of-its-kind event: the 2020 Rona Youth Sheep Expo. This online expo provided students with the opportunity to make networking connections while ensuring they kept interest in our industry in a show-less time, building knowledge and skill development in order to enhance their careers. Recently I was honoured to be selected as the Youth Ambassador for WoolProducers Australia for 2021-2022. I am also on the newly-formed ASSBA youth committee to encourage the involvement of young members of the sheep industry. For the last few years I have been part of the Victorian Corriedale Youth Committee, and been a part of the events and decisions made.
I attend shows across Victoria, and love them all, but the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo is the largest and most prestigious show of the year.
Having been attending since the age of 12, I have grown a fond connection to the event. In addition to the main event, showing, there are breeders dinners, youth education workshops, general meetings, breed youth competitions and the state finals.
The ASWS sparked my interest in sheep and wool at a young age, and has fostered that passion for seven years through student involvement.
I started competing in junior judging and handling competitions at the age of 12, at shows around the state. At first it was something I wasn’t a fan of, having to speak in front of hundreds of people including my peers, but I slowly learnt to love junior judging. I loved being given the opportunity to learn and grow, and develop my skills and confidence, while spending time with friends.
I had always watched the older students compete in the state finals, and couldn’t wait until I was 16 and could do so myself.
I started attending shows through the livestock program at the first high school, Woodleigh, and then moved to Flinders Christian College where I was encouraged to pursue my passion. Flinders supported every ambition of mine, they sent us up to the National Merino Challenge in Sydney when we expressed our interest in attending, they hosted the Minister of Agriculture Hon. Jaclyn Symes MP after we met her at the Global Table event and offered to show her our school program. The support from the administration and the whole staff body was outstanding, my team members and I were congratulated on every success and really encouraged to reach for the stars. My success in the industry so far and the development of my future career can be attributed to the support of Flinders Christian College, Tyabb.
Throughout 2020, while completing year 12 at home in lockdown, I founded and ran a first-of-its-kind event: the 2020 Rona Youth Sheep Expo.
This online expo provided students with the opportunity to make networking connections while ensuring they kept interest in our industry in a show-less time, attracting support from hundreds of people around the world including the United States, South America, the UK, New Zealand and more. Through endless emails and phone calls I received generous sponsorship which allowed me to create many educational ‘awards’ including work placement with Fox and Lillie’s wool production/export team, all of which further the winners’ knowledge and skill development in order to enhance their careers.
My favourite show each year is the Royal Melbourne Show. There is so much excitement of attending such a large, successful show, and I love being able to showcase my breed to the public. While there are members of the public at most shows, Royal Melbourne Show lets them walk around our pens and see our sheep up close.
I think this is extremely beneficial, not only for the publication of our businesses, but for the industry as a whole. We get the opportunity to show people from every background and nationality, from young kids to the elderly, what meat and wool production looks like. A common misconception within Australia is how our foods are farmed and how it ends up on our plate, and I believe the showcasing of agriculture to Australians living in and around the city who may not otherwise see livestock is a crucial step in the write direction.
My all-time favourite moment at any show, one I will never forget, was at the Red Hill Show at the beginning of 2020.
Having captained my school’s livestock team I had been responsible for the breeding and raising of the sheep as well as the team members’ education on animal husbandry and stud ownership. Part of my role was to teach the students, ranging from year 5 to year 12, junior judging and handling skills. At this small local show, we had three young female students out in a class, showing their sheep. I don’t remember the class or even the placings, all I remember is watching three young girls smile from ear to ear as they paraded their animals.
No ribbons had been placed yet, none of the girls had won the class, but all three of them were incredibly happy to simply be there doing something they loved, surrounded by people they loved.
In that moment, I realised how easy it can be to get caught up in the politics of a show- the placings, the ribbons, running around to get each student to their class in time- and was reminded to step back and appreciate the day.
I have probably missed many moments like this but those few seconds of pure joy shared amongst the students I love dearly, doing something I taught them, brought me to tears.

Agricultural Shows Australia wishes Erin all the best at the Ekka.