Still no answers on next year’s pastoral college courses

Mark Furner says more QATC details to come next year


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One of Longreach Pastoral College's last crop of students line up on horseback ahead of graduation.

One of Longreach Pastoral College's last crop of students line up on horseback ahead of graduation.

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Enrolments for Longreach and Emerald were shut in early December.

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No new residential students will attend Longreach Pastoral College next year and questions linger about what courses, if any, will be offered at the campus in 2019. 

Similar clouds hang over the Emerald Agricultural College, which along with Longreach will be shuttered next year as part of the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges wind down

State Agriculture Minister Mark Furner announced the closure of QATC earlier this month following a review by Professor Peter Coaldrake. 

At the time Mr Furner said there were nine students enrolled at Longreach who were due to graduate in 2019, and seven students at Emerald in a similar position. 

The state government has said it will ensure these students will be able to complete their qualifications, but it is unclear whether they will do so at QATC or another training provider.

An official QATC Frequently Asked Questions document described a "soft close" for the colleges in 2019.

"Current students will have the opportunity to complete their studies through a soft close of teaching services on-site, or will be assisted to transition to alternative training providers," it read.

"Students currently residing at Longreach and Emerald Colleges will be engaged and alternative options for accommodation explored."

Longreach and Emerald are no longer accepting residential enrolments for 2019, with enrolments shut on December 5 as Mr Furner announced QATC's closure. 

As of December 5 no students had enrolled for residential training at Longreach next year, Mr Furner said. 

It is unclear whether Emerald had any new residential enrolments. 

"The reality is that no new students have enrolled for residential training at the Longreach college for 2019," Mr Furner said.  

"The industry and students have voted with their feet and chosen other training options."

The Rural Reach program, a partnership where Longreach State High School students board at the pastoral college, will go ahead in 2019 but has an uncertain future after that. 

Emerald Ag aims

While the state government has promised a clearer understanding of the immediate situation early in 2019, Calliope cattleman and AgForce cattle president, Will Wilson, wants to see an in-depth study done to ensure that future outcomes at both colleges are relevant to industry.

Asked about central Queensland views on the way ahead for the Emerald Agricultural College, Mr Wilson said the current liaison with CQUniversity was worth ongoing consideration.

"There are so many different levels of training needed. One thing I find is that there's not many on agricultural boards with letters after their names.

"Whether that's a good or bad thing, it shows we have credentials.

"It's one reason why we get marginalised all the time - the people who oppose us have all the credentials."

Regardless of who delivered agricultural education in central Queensland, Mr Wilson said the over-riding imperative was for them to be commercially driven, citing Marcus Oldham, Bond University and Monash University as examples.

"CQUniversity is certainly one pathway option.

"From an AgForce point of view, I'd like to think we can be the connector between college users and the financial model over the college.

"It's a bigger conversation that has to involve universities, councils, the cotton industry, to find an all-over model.

"Cotton people aren't going to run anything for cattle people, who aren't going to run anything for councils."

Unlike AgForce, cotton industry representatives are tight-lipped on how they see their future involvement with any future model devised for the college at Emerald, sited in the heart of central Queensland's cotton industry.

Cotton Australia central Queensland manager, Renee Anderson, has said only that they were working on a plan of attack.

Former Emerald board chairman, Mike McCosker, declined to comment, saying only that he had done a lot of work with the college over the years and lost many hours of his life.

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