12 February 2024

From shearing to sponge cakes, in Gunning it's time to show off its best

| Sally Hopman
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Family of five

The Gunning Show is a family affair for Jen Medway and her husband Jack with their children Lachie, Tully and Zoe. Photo: Rachael Lenahan.

When it comes to Gunning, sheep and the annual show, few have better qualifications than Jen and Jack Medway.

Jen hails from the Hallam family, which, along with her husband’s family, run about 17,000 sheep in the Southern Tablelands region. While Jen is secretary of the Gunning Show, Jack is in charge of its shearing competiton. Combine that with the fact Gunning is one of the best wool-growing regions in the state, and you have a winner.

With this year’s Gunning Show scheduled for Sunday 18 February, both are hard at work preparing for the annual event which brings a community together – as well as city folk looking for some down-home fun.

A fifth generation farmer, Jen has lived in the district all her life – and has been secretary of the Gunning Show for about 15 years while her husband has overseen the shearing compeition for about a decade.

“I love this region where we live,” Jen said. “You tend to end up on a lot of committees because that’s the sort of place it is, but it’s all good, you do it because it benefits the whole community.”

Jen says the strength of the shearing competition at the Gunning Show illustrates the importance of the industry to the region.

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“We live in one of the best wool-growing regions in the world, although others may lay claim to that title too,” she laughed. “But what we are also keen to do is promote the junior side of the industry.”

With a national shortage of shearers because of fewer people coming up through the ranks, competitions like Gunning help encourage young people to enter the industry so the skill continues via the next generations.

“Yes, it’s tough,” Jen said, “you do need a huge amount of skill and it’s not something everyone can get up and run with, bending over for most of the day, dragging out heavy sheep. It is a challenging work environment.

“But it’s good to see more young people, especially women, coming through and how the industry is starting to support them with better facilities to encourage more people to get into the industry.

“I’ve been in sheds when I was younger, helping to put myself through uni, but back then there weren’t many females. Now it’s not uncommon to see women coming through which is great.

Group of country people

Members of the Gunning Show committee after last year’s event which drew hundreds of people to the village near Yass. Photo: Supplied.

“We’ve got some passionate shearers who come to our place, it’s a privilege to watch their skill. I really take my hat off to these guys. It’s such a physical job – which is why there are not many shearers who don’t want to be there.”

This year’s competition will be judged across four levels – open, senior, intermediate and learner with some of the best shearers in the district and surrounds scheduled to compete.

“It will certainly be a spectacle,” Jen said. “To see shearers of the calibre of Jamie Boothman – he was a NSW finalist in the nationals with Steve Hogan, our local contractor – it will be a great tussle,” she said. “But it will probably come down to who has the best sheep on the day.”

Jen said one of her favourite aspects of the show was how it brought people together. People who lived in the district but may have moved away come back for the day, to catch up on the news, see old friends – and even compete against each other in various classes, including the coveted award for best sponge.

The 2024 Gunning Show is on Sunday, 18 February from 8 am at the Gunning Showground.

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