Tasmania’s Stories

Graziers test wool branding

Edition 187_Wallace

Ross merino stud breeders Georgina and Hamish Wallace have won the grand champion title in the Australian Fleece Competition in Bendigo for the second time in three years.

Only two other producers have won twice and the Wallaces' 2017 score of 97.1 out of 100 was the highest in the show’s history.

Tasmanian superfine wool growers took home five of six major awards at the competition.

Shortly afterwards the Bowden family from Weasel Plains, near Bothwell, took out the Elders Southern Clip of the Year for the second year running at Sheepvention in Victoria.

One of the judges described the Bowdens' fleece as "possibly the highest scoring clip to win this award.”

There's never been any doubt that Tasmanian wool is unusually good, or that Australia’s finest superfine wool is grown in the State.

Tasmania still holds the world-record price for superfine wool, 32,000 cents a kilogram set in 1988 by wool produced by Jim McEwan, Georgina Wallace's father, at Trefusis, the Wallaces' 1830s merino stud south of Ross.

Obviously, the Tasmanian product merits place-of-origin branding, but existing supply chains and marketing systems make that difficult to implement widely.

Tasmanian growers produced 52,000 bales last season, with 90 to 95 per cent sold at auction, as it has been since colonial times.

The Mercury's Hilary Burden reported in August on a growing mood for change to this marketing status quo and offered examples of how it is happening in the near absence of a local manufacturing sector.

(Launceston's Waverley Woollen Mills – Australia's only surviving wool weaver – Hobart's Smitten Merino and small designer-makers Ally and Me in Hobart and Spotted Quoll in Launceston are close to the sum total of local wool value adding).

Burden's unusually detailed report on the long-standing Tasmanian economic sector, included some intriguing examples of emerging supply chains.

As Tasmania's Stories has previously reported, wool grower Simon Cameron and menswear brand MJ Bale are using a new awareness of provenance to market a line of suiting made exclusively from wool from Mr Cameron's merino flock at his Conara property, Kingston.

“It’s an amazing project for a wool grower to be selected to have a product made just out of the wool they produce,” Mr Cameron told Burden.

Male models posed in the middle of a mob of the sheep that had produced the wool for their suits, slick advertisements were crafted and The Kingston Collection became a new way of selling Tasmanian wool.

Similarly, Country Road produced a limited-edition polo top this year using superfine merino wool sourced exclusively from Beaufront Station at Ross and milled in Italy.

Like the Kingston Collection, the exercise took three years to reach fruition.

Beaufront owner Julian von Bibra found it to be "immensely satisfying".

About a third of the clip from his 30,000 sheep now bypasses the auction system to go to Italy. A proportion of this is branded Beaufront.

“The crazier the world gets, the more people value something that is harvested sustainably off an animal and converted into something you can wear," Mr von Bibra said.

"The fashion industry is fickle – at the moment, they want a story – but wool is also a very [reliable] product.”

Mr von Bibra had a suit custom-made in Australia out of cloth milled in Italy from Beaufront's clip.

"I cannot wear that suit and stay sober,” he told Burden. “It is so exciting to put that on and know it’s made from wool we’ve grown – I always need a glass of champagne in my hand."

Alistair Calvert, the State Wool Manager at Roberts Ltd Hobart, told Burden a leading French top maker told him Tasmanians needed to stop dealing with wool as a commodity and to market it as a niche, high-end, natural fibre instead.

Nobody is saying the long-established auction system has to go, but a number of growers are finding ways to work outside it, including contract selling to specialised manufacturers.

Nick Bradford, a NSW wool fashion stalwart, said: "Tasmania could be telling a real story of its own – that there is no other area in the world where sheep graze like they do in Tasmania.

"You don’t need to overthink it, or complicate it, or turn it into a mystery.

"There is nothing like Tasmanian merino. So come up with 30 reasons why there is no wool in the world like it.”

Carl Mason, from Hobart-based Smitten Merino which specialises in light-weight prickle-free garments, said: “We’ve always believed in our Tasmanian-ness, but never before has it been more relevant.

"Never ever have tourists wanted local more than now – if it’s not Tasmanian they don’t want it. We’re lucky with MONA, with great chefs visiting and with our food reputation going from strength to strength.

"We hope to ride on the back of that. We just have to get our brand out of Tasmania – and out of Australia.”

Change is certainly stirring in one of Tasmania's foundation industries.

Image courtesy of The Weekly Times

6 September 2017, Edition 187

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012-13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island's land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named 'Best Temperate Island in the World' by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of Mt Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania's highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King's holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania's predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world's biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the state's gross product in 2010-11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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