Ken Dyson receives Australian Wool Industry Medal

By Mal Gill
December 22 2021 - 11:00pm
Ken Dyson (third from right) with his Australian Wool Industry Medal and citation, with former Dyson Wools employee Susanne Sweetman (left), Dyson Jones Wool Marketing Services people Marlene Peters and Rodney Coake, medal presenter Darren Spencer, president of WA Shearing Industry Association and Dyson Jones Wool Marketing Services director John Stothard and State manager Peter Howie at the Western Wool Centre.

STANDING up for the right of Western Australian wool buyers to deal directly with woolgrowers saw local industry doyen Ken Dyson honoured recently.

Mr Dyson, 82, was one of six wool industry contributors of significance to be presented with the Australian Wool Industry Medal at special ceremonies held during breaks in live auction trading at the Western Wool Centre (WWC) and Melbourne and Sydney selling centres.

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Co-founder with his brother Terry of Dyson Wools in 1979 - now Dyson Jones Wool Marketing Services - Mr Dyson was honoured particularly for his work as State and later national chairman of the Private Treaty Wool Merchants of Australia body during a time the wool industry was regulated under the Australian Wool Corporation (AWC) reserve price scheme.

"They (AWC) wanted to do away with private treaty buying," Mr Dyson told current wool buyers, brokers and some past wool industry colleagues who had gone to the WWC sale room especially for the presentation by WA Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer - a previous Australian Wool Industry Medal recipient himself.

"They wanted to control everything, they wanted all wool sold by auction.

"But private treaty was a big part of the industry in WA - when I started at Dyson Wools it was 30pc of our business.

"I loved going to the Eastern States, especially to Canberra, to stand up for WA, especially when they were trying to get rid of private buying."

Mr Dyson said he found an ally in 1983-1991 Federal Primary Industries and Energy Minister, John Kerrin, who came from a farming background.

"They wanted to raise the reserve price and were going to increase the (wool) levy to 25 per cent, we fought against it and won in the end," Mr Dyson said.

He said he and his brother had developed a love of sheep and wool while visiting a relative's Tammin farm on school holidays and watching the shearing.

As a young man his brother went into the wool industry, joining Dalgety, but he qualified as an accountant and worked in the caravan and transportable homes industry.

"I joined the wool industry for the first time when my late brother Terry said 'I want you to be my accountant' in 1972," Mr Dyson said.

"I thrived for three years and then was taken over by Westwools and came under Bill Hughes and he got me to open up Westwools Carpets in WA, which was quite an experience.

"In 1979 Terry knocked on my door and said 'It's about bloody time you took a risk in life'

"I said 'what do you mean?'

"He said 'I want you to be my partner in a new business, Dyson Wools'.

"We started on May 1, 1979 and we built up a lot of contacts in country towns and the thing I learnt with my accounting background was I had to be mates with wool buyers - I had to have a drink at the Pier Hotel, go for long lunches and stay up late at night, I did all those things that wool buyers did in those days and I've still got the same wife."

Mr Dyson said his brother was the "wool man" in the partnership and both he and the business came under intense pressure in February, 1982, when Terry collapsed and died from a heart attack on the beach at Fremantle, aged 47.

"I was confronted with a situation whereby the bank gave me two weeks to do something (about a business plan for a future without Terry)," he said.

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"By good fortune, a week before Terry passed away, we had employed Shane Jones (the Jones part of Dyson Jones) who was a wool specialist and Shane helped me build up the business over the years.

"I also had Sue Sweetman - who is here today - and others who helped me build the business.

"We worked like crazy, specialised in country branches and visiting country towns - sponsoring country football teams, the Corrigin Shears and the (State) ewe hogget competition at the Newdegate Machinery Field Days.

"I had done the theory part of a wool classing course, so I could talk the language.

"One of the best things I ever did was to concentrate a lot of my personal efforts on the country areas and going to see farmers."

In 1997, the trading name was changed to Dyson Jones Wool Marketing Services and long-standing employee John Stothard became a director.

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In 2003 current State manager Peter Howie became a director.

Mr Dyson retired as managing director in 2006.

"It makes me extremely proud when I visit the (Dyson Jones) woolstore," he said.

"A lot of the people I employed are still there, the branches we started are still there, the business is strong and over 40 years old now."

His citation states, "Ken remains a well respected figure within the wool industry".

"He is recognised nationally for his knowledge and his ability to share his knowledge and skills with others," it states.

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David Michell, chairman of Wool Industry Australia which initiated the medal five years ago to honour industry stalwarts, said medals were normally presented at Wool Week celebrations in August each year.

But COVID-19 had disrupted plans for last year's and this year's presentations, so three of the six medals presented last week were held over from 2020 and Mr Dyson and two others were 2021 recipients, Mr Michell said.

Apart from Mr Dyson, others to receive Australian Wool Industry Medals last week were, exporter and Superfine Merino industry advocate Andrew Blanch and broker John Gray, both New South Wales.

From Victoria, wool exporter Ken Stock received his for charitable services via the Michael Manion Wool Industry foundation, Robert Couchman for metrology and wool science and former Federation of Australian Wool Organisations chairman John Lewis for national and international industry representation.

Nominations for 2022 medal recipients will be called for early in the new year.

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