Three generations notch up 214 years with Wingham abattoirs

A Wingham story... Meet Narelle Atkins (second left) and her extended family, (from left) nephews Bradley Staff and Brian Smoothy, sister Barbara Staff, son Troy Atkins, dad Henry Bell, brother Peter Bell, sister Shirley Smoothy and husband Ian Atkins.
A Wingham story... Meet Narelle Atkins (second left) and her extended family, (from left) nephews Bradley Staff and Brian Smoothy, sister Barbara Staff, son Troy Atkins, dad Henry Bell, brother Peter Bell, sister Shirley Smoothy and husband Ian Atkins.

FOR most people, work is a big part of their life, but for Narelle Atkins, Wingham Beef Exports means a lot to her family.

The extended Wingham family have had 17 members work at the company and have notched up a remarkable 214 years of service spanning three generations.

The family tradition began when Narelle’s father, Henry Bell worked at Wingham Beef as a cleaner alongside his two brothers, Trevor and Neville.

Henry retired in 1992 is now 81- years-old, living in Wingham and still playing cricket. He saw a lot of change while he was worked, particularly a movement away from the once highly physical work.

As a cleaner he remembers shifting large loads in wheel burrows, a system that has now been upgraded to use machines to make work easier.

Narelle and her husband, Ian both work together. Ian has been a slaughterman for 43 years and is the longest serving current employee, beginning with the company at the age of 17.

They have three sons who work at Wingham Beef. Jason has been a boner and Troy a stockman for 14 years alongside Andrew who has recently joined them.

Narelle’s brother Peter, a chiller supervisor, has been with Wingham Beef for 24 years. Peter’s sons, Steven and Joshua have also joined their father at work.

Narelle’s two sisters, Barbara and Shirley have watched their children join the company.

Barbara’s son Bradley has spent 20 years with the company and her daughter, Belinda and son-in-law Albert worked at the abattoirs before moving away from the area.

Shirley has worked in the boning room for 10 years with her husband who has dedicated 35 years to Wingham Beef Exports.

Narelle said it has not always been an easy time. In 1974 15 per cent of the abattoir’s work force was laid off, a time when she and Ian had three young children and were paying off a farm.

“When Nippon bought the company it gave a lot of people more security,” she said.

“To our family, it’s been a wonderful thing to keep our children in the area. It has kept a lot of stability in the family,” she said.

Her family members see their positions within Wingham Beef exports not just as a job but as a career. Narelle came to her position as a training co-ordinator after working elsewhere and finds great satisfaction in her work.

“I love coming to work every day,” she said.

Narelle explained there a lot of careers in the industry especially at the company which has a high focus on training.

She said although her sons now live out of the area, working at the abattoirs set them up well in life.

“We are a very close family that has been lucky to stay together. If it wasn’t for Wingham beef Exports, we wouldn’t all be together in the one town.

As part of Narelle’s job she is the first person new employees interact with. She is responsible for conducting inductions and initial training and a tour of the facility.

Narelle explained employees at the company come from all walks of life. She can usually tell within the first few days if they will be a long term employees.

Narelle’s family is one of many who have seen generations work at the abattoirs including the Thorburns, Greenaways, Moores, Tisdells and Browns and Reeves.

Wayne Reeve followed his father, Robert who spent 47 years at the abattoirs. Wayne works at the farm at Glen Yarra. He is proud to see his son Brendan progress through the company. Brendan began as a labourer on the slaughter floor and after training has

Wingham Beef Exports willingness to employ locals and train them throughout their careers has meant generations of families have chosen to stay and work in together in Wingham.

SEE THE WINGHAM BEEF EXPORTS 90TH ANNIVERSARY FEATURE STORIES under news/features on this website