Wool Trade

Wool brokers’ centenary brings back memories

Terry Sim February 24, 2020

At the NCWSBA centenary were, from left, Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors executive director Peter Morgan, WISS Hamilton broker Damien Meagher, former NCWSBA president Don Fraser and wool grower Andrew Farran.

CENTENARY celebrations by Australia’s wool brokers last week brought back memories for Newstead grower Craig Hepburn — of the days when every serious producer came to town to see their wool sold.

Australia’s wool brokers celebrated the centenary of their national body in Melbourne last Thursday by selling wool and raising money for charity before an enthusiastic crowd of industry supporters.

National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia president John Colley said when the national council was formed in 1919, the intention was that it would only operate for two years to negotiate with the Australian Government on the war wool stockpile.

“Yet, here we are 100 years later celebrating the centenary!”

Newstead wool growers Craig and Cameron Hepburn at the NCWSBA centenary celebrations.

Mr Hepburn was among the more than 200 people who watched several brokers auction wool in the Peter Calvo Auditorium of the Australian Institute of Music in King St to commemorate the national council’s beginnings in 1919. The King Street building was originally built in 1914 to house the Melbourne wool auctions and was known as the Melbourne Wool Exchange. The NCWSBA’s first meeting was held there in 1920.

Mr Hepburn said he has been growing wool for more than 40 years and can remember coming to the Melbourne wool auctions in William St in the 1980s with his father Donald.

“The atmosphere was great, there were more growers in the gallery.

“It was the social side of it.”

He said the atmosphere at the centenary auction and the later charity auction reminded him of the enthusiasm in seeing wool sold before it waned with the collapse in the floor price.

“To come down here to catch up with old mates and meet new people – it’s like going to a clearing sale.”

NCWSBA president John Colley at the centenary celebrations

Mr Colley said the NCWSBA replaced the Federation of Wool Broker Associations following discussions to form a national body between the various state wool-broking organisations.

“The state bodies were concerned about the significant stockpile of wool which had been paid for by the British Government under the compulsory war acquisitions scheme but had not been delivered.

“They feared it would cause wool prices to fall as the new seasons production became available,” he said.

“The National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia was formed, with the articles of association agreed in December 1919.”

Centenary auction was well-supported

NCWSBA executive director Chris Wilcox with centenary mascot Wooliam.

NCWSBA executive director Chris Wilcox said a total of 1352 bales were offered in the 200 lots by 12 broker members of NCWSBA – Rodwells, Elders, WISS, Landmark, Jemalong, Schute-Bell, Macdonald & Co, AWN, Wool Solutions, Michell Direct, Roberts Wool and Rhodes Wool. The sale was well-supported by buyers, who bought 1316 bales in 195 lots. AWH used its WoolEx auction trading platform.

Retired wool broker Don Fraser remembered working with BJ Underwood when it was approached by a wool buyer about a new way of selling wool – called sale by sample – and would we like to run a warehouse for them. He was one of the founders of Woolgrowers Independent Selling Services or WISS.

The former NCWSBA chairman said the centenary reminded him of his 50-year working career, but was an opportunity to catch up with old friends.

On the current wool industry concerns with the coronavirus, Mr Morgan felt the industry had been through worse.

“I was involved when the floor price collapse, so compared to that, this is nothing.”

Mr Colley said Australian wool growers have had drought, bushfires and floods in the past 18 months.

“Wool brokers have been there for the growers, providing financial, management, and personal support.

“We will continue to be there for growers, acting as their agents and friends.”

At the centenary celebrations’ cocktail reception at The Rialto, a charity auction of items raised $16,700 for the Michael Manion Wool Industry Foundation.

Several past presidents and executive directors of the NCWSBA were also honoured with gifts, including the Intercontinental Melbourne’s mascot — inspired by the council’s centenary – Wooliam. They included Don Fraser, president, 1997-2000 and 2005-2006; Robert Ryan, president, 2000-2003 and 2006-2010; Kym Gunn, president, 2012-2014; Simon Hogan, president, 2014-2017; Lionel Ward, executive director, 1992-1997, and John O’Connor, executive director, 1997-2008.


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  1. Andrew Farran, February 24, 2020

    It was a very good show. Congratulations all round.

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