A Family Tradition: Our Wool Classer and Trainer’s Inherited Passion for Wool

In this interview, we sit down with one of TWC’s newest employees, Petrisse Leckie, who has turned a family tradition into a thriving career. Growing up on a sheep farm in New South Wales, she followed in her Pa’s footsteps to become a respected wool handler and classer. Now, as a Wool Handling Trainer, she shares her journey, insights into the wool classing process, and valuable advice for those considering a career in this rewarding industry.

Can you tell us about your background, how you got started in the wool industry, and what inspired you to become a wool handler and classer?

I grew up on the family farm in New South Wales, where we raised sheep and grew crops. Wool handling was in the family; my Pa, Owen Crockett, was a wool classer. Straight out of high school, I helped out on the farm alongside another job I had at the time. There was a small shearing crew working for us, and the shearing contractor mentioned he was looking for a full-time wool handler. When I asked what that entailed, he said, “Pretty much the same thing you’re doing now, but a bit faster!” So, that’s how I got into wool handling. I was thrown in at the deep end and learned on the job.

I worked all around Australia, making new contacts at each place and moving on to the next job. I traveled like that for about seven years before undertaking my training in wool classing. When I came down to Tasmania, my passion for wool really grew as I met many like-minded people with a similar enthusiasm. I was then fortunate enough to be offered the Wool Handling Trainer position that I hold now and have done for the last three years.

Can you explain the process of wool classing?

Wool classing involves grading the wool and assigning it to the appropriate category, with the goal of making the most profitable return for the farmer. As a classer, you rely on the team of wool handlers to prepare the fleece and oddments for you. The wool then comes to you to determine the final grade. We adhere to the code of practice and standards set by the Australian Wool Exchange.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in wool handling and classing?

Do it! Every day is something new – it’s physically rewarding and can take you all over the world. If you don’t have a background in it, ask around and chat with local farmers or industry people to make connections. Alternatively, the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia and Australian Wool Innovation offer courses across Australia. You can reach out and attend a course for a week to see if it’s a good fit for you. Basically, if you’re willing to work hard, you’ll find great camaraderie in the industry. There are many options and pathways; you don’t have to stay in the shed. The days can be long and hard, but you’ll love it!