Attending the final ‘Moo Baa Munch’ agricultural education event in Toowoomba last week left with me mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was so pleased to see so many young kids engaged and excited about agriculture. On the other hand, I was also extremely disappointed that events like this won’t go ahead in the future as a result of the Palaszczuk Government’s decision to stop funding the School to Industry Partnership Program.
What makes the Queensland Government’s decision even more galling is that it is happening at a time when agriculture is one of the fastest growing industries in the country and other state governments are investing more, not less, in agricultural education.
For example, the Tasmanian Government is employing more ag teachers and recently committed $16.1 million to its Revitalising School Farms Initiative as part of its plan to cement the state as an “agricultural powerhouse”.
In Victoria, the Andrews Labor Government announced last month it would invest $20 million in the Smarter, Safer Farms Program. This program will invest in Agriculture Victoria’s four SmartFarms and deliver a school and industry program that enables students and industry to learn and benefit from SmartFarm demonstration trials and technology.
Meanwhile in Queensland, which was recognised as the most valuable agricultural state in Australia in the recent Census, the Palaszczuk Government is cutting agricultural education funding. It just doesn’t make sense.
SIPP was first funded by the Beattie Labor Government and has been supported by every state government since, with 100 per cent of the $181,000 in government funding going towards whole-of-agriculture education activities and services.
The program is now more relevant than ever, engages with primary school students not just high school students, and delivers excellent bang for buck compared to many other state government programs.
AgForce is calling on the Palaszczuk Government to follow the lead of its counterparts interstate and invest more in agricultural education, rather than cut funds to a unique program with widespread support from industry, schools, teachers and students.