Closure Of Agricultural Colleges Devastates Communities

(From left) Graham Strang, David Janetzki MP and David Strang discuss the devastating closure of the last two agricultural colleges in Queensland, attended by generations of Toowoomba residents.

The decision to close Queensland’s last two agricultural colleges is a devastating blow to our region, Member for Toowoomba South David Janetzki said.

More than 100 people will lose their jobs when the colleges at Emerald and Longreach are closed in 2019 and generations of young people will lose valuable opportunities to forge careers in agriculture.

Mr Janetzki noted that agriculture and forestry were a pillar of the Toowoomba regional economy, generating $728 million in 2017.

“We have a strong connection to the land and this kind of short-sighted decision cuts away at Toowoomba’s agricultural future,” Mr Janetzki said.

“Just last month Toowoomba hosted an ag and food innovation forum which highlighted the opportunities available to the region’s agriculture and technology sectors.  It is a time to be investing further in agriculture – not unilaterally shutting down places where young men and women learn skills and gain experience” he said.

Toowoomba father and son David and Graham Strang both grew up on sheep and cattle properties. Mr Strang (Snr) attended the Longreach Pastoral College and Mr Strang (Jnr) attended the Dalby Agricultural College.

Mr Strang (Jnr) said the agricultural colleges provided an excellent opportunity for students to receive a hands-on agricultural education. They also teach best practises for animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

“They are great educators for kids who have left school after Year 10,” Mr Strang (Jnr) said.

“Parents who are not quite ready to send their 15-year-old children away to a station – they could send them to college where they would be looked after,” he said.

“I worked as a jackaroo with boys and girls who came out of the college and you could always tell which kids had come out of the ag college - they were a leap ahead.”

“They’ve already had two years away from Mum and Dad, they’ve had two years of practical education so you don’t have to show them what a tractor looks like – they were ready to work 12 hour days with cattle in 45 degree heat.”

Mr Strang said he believed the colleges could be saved by striking a deal with peak industry body AgForce which has been demanding the state government “hand back the keys” to industry.

Mr Strang (Snr) was part of the second intake of students at the Longreach Pastoral College in 1968-1969 and he later served on the college board for 17 years as the Minister for Education’s representative.

“I loved it there. They were very unique educational facilities,” Mr Strang (Snr) said.

“The courses were very practical where you learned to do everything from engineering, mechanics, welding and animal husbandry,” he said.

“It is a shame the colleges can’t be used as a further education facility, perhaps for students who have already completed high school.”

Mr Janetzki said Labor had now closed ag colleges in Burdekin, Dalby, Longreach and Emerald.

“Regional Queensland will be devastated by this decision but the fight isn’t over yet - a deal must be done with industry to keep these colleges open for the future” he said.

A petition to keep the colleges open has attracted more than 14,000 signatures in one week.