WE DON’T like to throw the word “iconic” around lightly.
But, when you’re talking about Tasmania’s first woollen mill, then it’s a very fair description.
A consortium of Tasmanian business people have banded together to save Waverley Mills by crowdfunding to keep it open for years to come.
Waverley was the first woollen mill to open in Tasmania, 143 years ago.
It holds nearly a century-and-a-half of history in Northern Tasmania.
Being the only woollen mill still in full operation in Australia, it also has an important role to play in preserving a piece of national history – our country’s wool manufacturing heritage.
Waverley Mills was built in 1874.
It has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the decimation of the Australian manufacturing industry.
At its peak, the mill employed more than 300 people, with fabrics and blankets sold around the globe.
Employee numbers have dwindled down over the years, to 20 in its current capacity.
But, to this day, those workers create products from start to finish, from carding and dyeing to spinning, weaving and finishing.
They are experts in a disappearing field.
Or, so it seemed.
Sheep farmers know the wool manufacturing industry has been dying out for many years.
However, there have been attempts around the nation to try and revitalise the sector in recent times.
In Victoria, an Ultimate Wool Team is being established, wearing traditional AFL woollen jumpers, while playing southern Australia’s favourite sport.
It is putting the idea of Aussie-made woollen products back into the spotlight.
That publicity could potentially be part of the puzzle Waverley Mills needs to survive and thrive.
As the group of business owners trying to save the mill says, “unless we can save it, it will be lost forever”.
As a fully functioning mill in its current state, it’s the perfect time to be on the forefront of the issue, and save the mill before it closes.
If it does close, reopening it will be much more difficult than reserving it now.
Let’s protect this Tasmanian, and Australian, icon.