Another of the organisations not consulted by the state government in the lead-up to its decision to close Queensland Agricultural Training College campuses in Longreach and Emerald, the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association wants to know what form the plan to “modernise and reinvigorate” agricultural training will now take.
State president, Tammie Irons, said the closure decision, coming on the back of the government’s decision to cease funding to the School to Industry Partnership Program, highlighted a seemingly increasing disdain for agriculture and an undervaluing of the pivotal role it played in the Queensland economy.
“It is ironic that as the Queensland government decreases its investment in programs that initiate interest in agriculture as a desirable career path, our neighbouring state, New South Wales, is increasing investment in agriculture as a key pillar of their economy and to support regions reeling from ongoing drought conditions,” she said.
This ensured ready access to quality education and skills development provided important career paths for young people at a time when efforts were being made to encourage them to remain in regional areas, decreasing population drift and ensuring sustainability.
Despite being recognised as a premier body representing the interests of rural and remote students, ICPA regularly engages with the state government and participates in forums, inquiries and roundtables at its invitation, but was not consulted as part of the Coaldrake Review.
"The media release issued by Minister Furner is scant on detail when it comes to what this plan involves, and how they are going to improve educational opportunities available to people desiring a career in agriculture," Ms Irons said.
“Whilst important, ongoing investment in planning and strategies as outlined in the media release cannot deliver to students, industry and communities what face-to-face, practically applied training can and does.”
She concluded that the college closures were "the end of an era" that many people would see as proof that the state government was undervaluing the contribution made by rural Queenslanders and therefore the investment required to support and sustain that contribution.
“ICPA Qld encourages the Queensland government to ensure all relevant stakeholders are included in their plans to ‘modernise and reinvigorate vocational education, training and skilling in the state’s central west’ as announced in the media release,” Ms Irons said.