Home NewsAustralia ‘She’s just incredible’: Legally blind roustabout Ashlea leads the way in an iconic Aussie role

‘She’s just incredible’: Legally blind roustabout Ashlea leads the way in an iconic Aussie role

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Ashlea Hughes is legally blind, however the 26-year-old will not let or not it’s a barrier to navigating her approach across the lanolin-oiled floorboards of shearing sheds throughout South Australia and Victoria the place she has labored for the previous 5 years. 

Ms Hughes works as a roustabout — a exceptional feat in a fast-paced and generally harmful office — the place she weaves out and in, selecting up wool, sorting and sweeping the boards because the shearers drag of their subsequent sheep to shear.

Ms Hughes has retinitis pigmentosa, a situation that impacts one in each 3,000 Australians. For her, it means her peripheral imaginative and prescient has deteriorated since her teenagers.

Each her brothers have the hereditary situation however hers is essentially the most superior.

“I obtained identified with the situation once I was 17 and I believe it was fairly far passed by then after which I used to be declared legally blind once I was 21,” she stated.

Close up headshot of blond woman looking at camera
At 26, Ms Hughes is legally blind.(Equipped: Ashlea Hughes)

“I can not see their nostril, I can not see their brow, I can not see their ear or their chin or something — it is actually simply the attention.”

Ms Hughes started working within the wool sheds after she as soon as stayed in a shedding city and got interested within the job. She has since learnt to navigate a unique work atmosphere nearly each week.

“I simply inform individuals I can not see and so if I stumble upon them or if I am of their approach or they’re making an attempt to get previous, simply to speak to me,” Ms Hughes stated.

“The primary day in every shed I really feel a bit clumsy and misplaced and like I am bumping into everybody and mucking all the things up.

“I’ve obtained to get used to the place all the things is, like the place the catching shed doorways are, the place the shearers are going to return out, the place the desk is, how a lot room between the wall and the shearer — all that type of stuff.

A colour newspaper photo of a young woman and a young man handling wool in a competition
Ms Hughes competing within the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Present wool dealing with state finals.(Equipped: Ashlea Hughes)


Ms Hughes grew up in Koonwarra, South Gippsland, Victoria, inhabitants 400, having fun with a childhood on a dairy farm highlighted by a love of dance and displaying cows.

Shearing contractor Erin Doudle, based mostly at Cummins on the Eyre Peninsula, stated Ms Hughes was one in all her finest employees.

“She’s simply unimaginable. There’s lots of people working for us who do not do half the job she does,” Ms Doudle stated.

“There’s numerous motion and motion within the shearing shed to take heed to even for these of us who can see, so she does an incredible job.”

Ms Doudle stated she can be most likely the tidiest roustie on the crew.

“I could sweep the ground regardless that its clear and it would not want sweeping however I am undecided if it does or not so I simply sweep it anyway in case,” Ms Hughes stated.

Woman wearing a cap with competitor number 217 in judging arena adjusting strapping on light brown cow's head
Ms Hughes additionally enjoys displaying cattle.(Equipped: Ashlea Hughes)

However some days are exhausting.

“I do not need to work within the sheds long run. I’ve realised it is fairly poisonous for me mentally when I’ve unhealthy days. It is simply not superb,” she stated.

“However I at all times simply remind myself that it is simply the primary day.

“I am simply getting the cling of it and tomorrow might be so much higher.

“Typically I do sit down and take into consideration how a lot I’ve achieved.”

Family of five grouped at restaurant table, son and mother standing with father, son and daughter sitting
Ms Hughes together with her household. Each her brothers even have retinitis pigmentosa.(Equipped: Ashlea Hughes)

New course

Ms Hughes has determined it’s time for brand new challenges and hopes to coach to turn into a barista. 

Her subsequent purpose is to journey abroad to a dairy convention within the UK in 2024.

She can be hoping to get again to pole dancing, which she took up in Melbourne.

Woman arched back, stretching upside down pole dancing wearing pink top and pants
Ashlea Hughes has at all times loved dance and took up pole dancing as an grownup.(Equipped: Ashlea Hughes)

“I actually get pleasure from doing that and my purpose sooner or later hopefully is to get to competitors stage with it,” she stated.

“I adore it. It is health, it is enjoyable, it is dance and it makes you be ok with your self.

“I’ve at all times cherished dance. It is at all times been my completely happy place rising up.”

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