Women in Shooting: Part 4 - Noela Robinson

For the 4th part in our series looking at women in shooting, we travel North to Narrabri to speak with SSAA NSW Board Member, Noela Robinson. 

"I think his grin was larger than mine!"

Noela Robinson was introduced to shooting when she was just 8 years old, and hasn’t looked back. During her years on the Range, Noela has shot most types of firearm, but it all started on her birthday as an eight year old.

“It was my birthday, and this was my birthday present. Dad set up the target on a Grey Gum Tree, made me load and unload the rifle three times, and then told me to hit the target.  Which I did, much to his delight! I think his grin was larger than mine.”

Noela was also introduced to both hunting and fishing at a young age.

“We went shooting rabbits in the hills on several occasions, not nearly often enough for me.  We also went fishing.   Neither he nor I had much patience so we would go 'spinner' fishing behind a row boat for perch, in the river.”

Noela is quick to mention that she has never had a bad reaction to her love of shooting, only envy from some of the men she regularly out shoots.

When the topic switched to some of the changes Noela has witnessed during her involvement with shooting, Noela stresses that shooting and hunting is a part of living in the bush for most people.

“Hunting used to be a quiet afternoon trip to the bush, a few shots fired to fill the fridge and everyone went home happy. It was no big deal. Kids were taught to use guns safely and to shoot for the pot.”

In an area like Narrabri, Noela says that conservation hunting and feral animal control is important for the community.

“At the moment up here feral pigs are in plague proportions. Feral dogs and foxes are also quite common. The National Parks are a safe haven for these feral pests that are hunted on the plains.”

But Noela is also passionate about getting more people involved in shooting and hunting.

“What I am trying to do, by example, is to show women that they can go out and enjoy the sport."

In fact, that’s why Noela stood for election to the SSAA NSW Board in 2012.

“I wanted to do something! Women need to be in positions of influence. If one is there the next one says ‘I can do that’.

If you ever find yourself near Narrabri, stop by the Range and ask if Noela is shooting today, and you might just learn something.

 

Women in Shooting: Part 3 - Diana Melham

Part 3 of our week long series on women in shooting and hunting is none other than SSAA NSW Executive Director Diana Melham who tells us a little bit more about herself, her role with SSAA NSW and how we can encourage more women to try out the safe, fun and unique range of shooting sports.

Hooked on shooting.

SSAA NSW Executive Director Diana Melham has had a long involvement with firearms, but it was only when she took on the position at Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (NSW) that she has been able to explore the wide range of safe, fun and unique disciplines.

“Before I started with SSAA NSW I’d only really used lever action rifles, because that’s what my dad used. In fact, my first ever firearm was a Winchester 94, 30-30 which my dad purchased off a farm hand for a case of beer!”

Diana is quick to point out this was in the early 80s, long before PTAs.

Like many shooters who became involved around the same time, Diana learned to shoot from her dad.

“We used to go out to a family friend’s property at Fords Bridge in far western NSW.”

Ironically the property in Fords Bridge is only a relatively short distance to the SSAA NSW owned hunting property – Tilterweira – in neighbouring Wanaaring.

“It really is the back of Bourke, but I always looked forward to getting out there with my Dad and learning more about shooting, hunting and general firearm safety.”

Diana readily admits to being a “bit of a tomboy” while at school, proudly declaring that she was one of the first girls to join the School Cadet Corps in NSW and says that most of her childhood activities revolved around the outdoors and farming.

“I went to an Agricultural High School , so many of the other students had an understanding of firearms and the importance of culling feral animals. But, like most people, there were still a few who didn’t agree or understand with me getting involved with shooting.

Today, Diana is enjoying the opportunity of learning a variety of new disciplines as she travels around the State to meet with members and find out what SSAA NSW can do to support our local Branches.

“We have 48 Branches throughout NSW and that number is likely to rise further as we continue to see increased interest in the shooting sports. I really enjoy getting out there and speaking with our members – and also trying a few new disciplines whenever I can!”

Asked to nominate her favourite discipline Diana says she enjoys Cowboy Lever Action Silhouette because of the friendly competition she has with her dad, but adds:

“I’m also getting hooked on Single Action, Colonial Action, Shotgun and more recently Turning Target. I prefer reactionary targets – I like to see them fall over or explode when I hit them. I’m too impatient to wait to see where I’ve hit a paper target.”

“I’ve also been interested in the Wild West since I was a kid, so getting to dress up as a Cowgirl was a big drawcard for me in trying out Single Action.”

When asked what constitutes a ‘typical day’ at SSAA NSW Diana laughs before pointing out that there is no such thing.

“I try and stay in touch with our Branches and the members of the SSAA NSW Board to keep up to date with what is happening around the State. We have a great Board who are a constant source of information and ideas. In the last 12 months we have also really increased our efforts with the media, so I’ll often speak with reporters on various topics.”

In the last month Diana has been hitting the road, visiting; Armidale, Bega, Boorowa, Coffs Harbour, Condobolin, Forbes, Port Macquarie, Macksville, Narrabri, Nowra and Taree.

“I really enjoy it,” says Diana.

“We have a large and diverse membership, and we’re looking to grow that number by almost 40% in the next two years. So it’s important we stay in touch, and find out what’s happening in these areas and what assistance SSAA NSW can provide to local Branches.”

On the question of how SSAA NSW can attract more female shooters to the sport, she said the Association had several ideas and initiatives, but that the most important step was that first visit to the Range.

“We need to show all shooters, whether they be men, women or juniors, that this is a safe sport, it’s a fun sport and it’s a unique sport. There’s so many different disciplines for people to come and try and get involved in. There really is something for everyone in the shooting sports – and we need to create an environment and an image that make people say to themselves that looks like fun, I want to give it a go’.”

“You can see it in their eyes. Once they take that first shot, the excitement, the exhilaration, you can see that they are going to be hooked for life!”

 

 

Women in Shooting: Part 1 - Suzy Balogh

This week we will be looking at five women with varying levels of involvement in shooting and hunting in a special 5 part series. Today we start by catching up with Australian Gold medalist Suzy Balogh. In 2004, Suzy became the first Australian women to win Gold in a shooting event. Suzy is also a life member of the SSAA.

"Thrilled, humbled and proud."

Those are the words that Suzy Balogh uses to describe the historic moment at the Athens Olympic Games which saw her wearing an Olympic Gold medal around her neck and the Australian national anthem playing in the background.

“Thrilled that our Anthem was playing because of my efforts. Humbled that I was among such amazing Olympians who had stood there prior. Proud of myself for holding my nerve and for making my dream come true but also doing the best job I could for my country, my team, my family and my friends.”

It was in 2004 that Suzy wrote her name in our Nation’s sport history books as the first Australian woman to ever win Olympic gold in the shooting sports.

But Suzy’s historic achievement wasn’t an overnight success.

“You could pretty much say clay target shooting and also hunting was in my blood. I started clay shooting when I was 14, but was shooting ducks and rabbits well before then.”

Suzy grew up around firearms. Her grandfather owned a gunshop in Echuca while her father owned a gun shop in Queanbeyan.

So it was no surprise when she first began to get interested in the shooting sports.

“My Dad loved it when I finally took up shooting having previously been too busy with representative softball and netball.”

In fact, Suzy’s brother and younger sister are also shooters while her mum and other sister have always been supportive.

“I remember a fax sent to the Athens Olympic village from my sisters that read Balogh girls kick butt!”

Suzy says she has been fortunate that her friends and employers have also been supportive of her while she has pursued her lofty goals, saying she had taken many to the Range so they could see for themselves what the sport is all about.

“I think that through taking them to the range on open days, it has really helped them understand why I do it.”

Asked what she enjoys most about the shooting sports, Suzy says it’s all about the personal challenge that the shooting sports provide.

“It’s just me, my equipment and the target. It’s all about positive action thoughts – see the target shoot the target. You can never let self doubt sneak in. Putting myself at times under some extreme pressure, a variety of situations and conditions and seeing how I actually come out the other end is why I compete. I also simply love the adrenalin rush and exhilaration you get from high stakes competition.”

On the question of how organisations like SSAA NSW can encourage more women to consider taking up the sport, Suzy was unequivocal.

“Women love shooting just as much as the boys do!”

“I believe the more women that get involved with shooting the more protected, politically, the sport will be and the richer the shooting environment will be. So to get more women involved the first thing is using equipment that suits women. Clubs can start by getting ‘try’ guns that are suitable for women – shorter stocks, lighter firearms, lower recoil, smaller gauges – you don’t want to scare them away at the start because they can’t even see down the barrel or hold the thing up (there are women at world championships that shoot 20 gauges instead of 12 gauges).”

“Clubs could also provide ‘go to people’ for beginners. If every shooter is friendly, helpful, encouraging and particularly welcoming to the new shooters at their club; those new shooters may just love it so much they want to introduce our sport to their friends. So just by every one of us being welcoming to a new shooter male or female, each of us just may be able to secure the future of our sport.”

Suzy is passionate about introducing more people to the safe, fun and unique sport of shooting, and has established HITTING TARGETS to introduce people to the exhilarating sport of clay target shooting.

“I simply love watching people hit their first clay target. They truly get empowered and exhilarated when they hit that first target they also get quite excited about firing a real 12 gauge shotgun.”

For more information on HITTING TARGETS you can visit their website at www.hittingtargets.com.au

 

SSAA NSW would like to thank Suzy for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with us. Tomorrow we will be continuing our look at women involved in shooting and hunting.

Women in Shooting: Part 2 - Casey and Jan Jacka

Part 2 of our week long series focusing on women in shooting and hunting looks at the mother and daughter duo of Jan and Casey Jacka. If you missed Part 1 you can check it out here.

Like mother, like daughter.

Jan Jacka grew up around firearms, shooting rabbits and foxes and the occasional pig on her property in Hay, NSW. But it was only after she met her husband that she began to get involved in competition shooting.

Jan started off with pistols but about seven years ago moved to shotgun competitions and was immediately hooked.

“I found it a great challenge, and totally different to pistol and rifle shooting.”

Today, Jan spends most weekends travelling to competitions throughout NSW, Victoria and the ACT and has consistently proved her skills in the demanding discipline. 

But Jan doesn’t have to look far to find her closest competitor – in fact her competition is in the same car. You see, Jan’s daughter Casey has also been bitten by the shotgun bug.

“Mum and Dad have always been interested in the various shooting sports, and Dad was always trying to convince me to try sporting clays. Initially I resisted because I was scared the recoil would hurt but I eventually gave in.”

That was 14 months ago and Casey hasn’t looked back, shooting almost every weekend despite the fact many of her friends prefer other sports. 

“Taking up shooting was a bit of a shock to some of them,” Casey admits.

Both Jan and Casey, not surprisingly given their success, list 5 Stand Sporting Clays as their favourite Discipline, however both also enjoy hunting with rifles.

Both ladies have had their fair share of success with the shotgun in hand.

Jan has twice made the Australian Graded Shotgun Team, while Casey has only just returned from New Zealand where she was a member of the NSW Shotgun Team competing in the 2013 Sporting Clay Championships.

Asked about her experiences in New Zealand, Casey said:

“It was an eye opener! It took me some time to get used to some of the rules they used but I soon got the hang of shooting gun down. The country side in New Zealand was a lot different to venues I’ve shot at which are usually flat. All in all it was a great experience!”

Jan and Casey relish the opportunity to compete against each other, with both saying there is more than a little “stirring” which goes on.

“I think Dad has nearly considered bailing on a few trips away with us,” jokes Casey.

So who is the reigning ladies champ in the Jacka household?

“At last year’s NSW 5-Stand State Titles, we were even at the end of the weekends shooting after much sparing and we had to shoot off for the title. After doing this twice, Casey finally came out on top by 2 targets.”

But has the friendly rivalry made them better shooters?

According to Jan, the answer is yes.

“I think it has become a competition between us, as to who can perform the best on the day. I know from personal experience if I’m shooting well and Casey comes in with a score close to or in front of mine, the next round I will try a lot harder to beat her and she does the same.”

Both ladies point to the great friendships they have made as well as the challenge of improving as their favourite aspects of the sport.

“I have travelled throughout NSW, VIC, ACT and New Zealand and I have found the shooters a welcoming bunch, especially if you are female. They have made me feel one of the team,” says Jan.

And both would like to see more women take up the shooting sports.

Jan says she would like to see women consider the shooting sports as an alternative to the ‘traditional’ sports such as netball, soccer and tennis.

“I think promoting shooting for the family is also important as I have met some amazing young girls shooting with their dads and let me tell you, they have youth on their side. Starting later, speaking for myself, was a disadvantage.”

Jan plays an active role in trying to promote the sport in her local area, having taken on the role of Publicity Office at SSAA Hay Branch as well as the position of SSAA NSW and SSAA National Vice Chairperson for the Shotgun discipline.

Casey echoes her mum’s words, suggesting more promotional material about the shooting sports not just aimed at women, but involving women.

“Articles like this can also really help,” Casey adds.

It’s clear that the friendly rivalry in the Jacka household will continue for some time to come and we wish both of them the very best.

 

Check back tomorrow for Part 3 in the week long series focusing on women in shooting.

 

Download SSAA NSW Standard Branch Constitution here