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NFF joins chorus of anger at Queensland ag college shutdowns
10 December 2018
The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) is seeking an explanation from the Queensland Palaszczuk Government regarding its decision to close two of the State's iconic agricultural colleges.
The future of both Longreach and Emerald agricultural colleges is today in limbo, after the news of the impending closures broke on Thursday.
NFF President Fiona Simson said it beggared belief that the Government would make such a decision without consulting those most impacted.
"Agriculture is an economic and social pillar of regional, rural and remote Queensland.
"We are at a loss to understand how constraining the pathways for young people to pursue a career in the industry can be anything but a slight against the bush.
"Agriculture already suffers from an ability to attract young people and to source workers in general. We need more new entrants not less."
Ms Simson said the adoption of digital technology and diverse new industries had created innovative and exciting careers paths in agriculture.
"There is huge opportunity for colleges like Longreach and Emerald to lead the way in training the next generation of farmers in the application of new technologies as well as to examine challenges such as carbon-neutral farming, drought mitigation, flora and fauna conservation, reef preservation and increasing indigenous and female participation in the sector."
Ms Simson said it was hard to believe the Queensland Government had not learned the lesson of its Western Australian counterpart, less than one year ago.
"This time last year, we were fighting to save agricultural colleges in WA from a short-sighted decision to withdraw funding for key agricultural colleges.
"After widespread, very public uproar from remote families and their supporters, the McGowan Government saw the error of its ways, unreservedly apologised and reinstated the funding."
Ms Simson said the NFF backed a proposal by AgForce for industry to the take over the operation of the colleges.
"These colleges are too important and too well-equipped to lose.
"We congratulate Agforce for putting their hand up to fill the void soon to be left by Government.
"AgForce, as a registered training organisation, has the expertise and the mandate to ensure the colleges remain an important part of the fabric of regional Queensland."
AgForce has already engaged with producers, community organisations, councils, MPs and others throughout Queensland.
"We're pleased to hear that, so far, the response has been overwhelmingly in favour of an industry-led solution."
Ms Simson said the NFF supported an AgForce plan to thoroughly assess the services the two institutions provided.
"We commend Agforces' concept to provide a comprehensive, future-looking rural research and education system that offers benefits beyond agriculture.
"The NFF has a plan for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030. Investing in the education of our young people is a key part of the plan to achieve the 2030 target.
"One thing's for sure, closing agricultural colleges and effectively limiting the pathways to a career in agriculture, is not in keeping with this vision," Ms Simson said.
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