AgForce will convene a community steering committee to develop a plan to save the state’s agricultural colleges facing closure.
General President Georgie Somerset said the future of the iconic colleges, and of agricultural education in Queensland, was crucial to the primary sector being able to enjoy the customary ‘happy and prosperous New Year’.
“We want to ensure our primary producers, and the hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders whose jobs rely on them, have a profitable, sustainable and smart future, and that we can continue to build on our $10 billion annual contribution to the State’s economy*,” Mrs Somerset said.
“AgForce was initially encouraged by what we hoped was a positive start to discussions with Minister Furner a couple of weeks ago.
“The Minister said he would contact us before Christmas to respond to our proposal, but we are yet to hear anything despite us repeatedly following up with his office.
“We need to keep this critical issue moving, so AgForce will facilitate a meeting of industry and community stakeholders early in the New Year.
“Mrs Somerset said AgForce had already engaged in positive and constructive discussions with many individuals and organisations throughout Queensland who believed that the colleges should and could be saved.
“We have received unanimous and resounding support from the many regional communities, mayors and councils, local businesses, educators, other industry sectors and, most importantly, producers, we have spoken with for an industry-led plan to save the ag colleges,” she said.
“We have had extremely useful discussions with Central Highlands and Longreach Regional Councils and the Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) about how AgForce can facilitate a united, State-wide approach to saving the ag colleges in their communities.
“We are well advanced in the consultation process, and are already gathering ideas for a solution.
“I am confident we can broker a grassroots proposal to retain the ag colleges as the centrepiece of a contemporary, comprehensive and sustainable rural education framework that meets the future needs of our industry and our regions.
“We plan to begin work on this proposal as a priority in 2019 and present it to the Minister before the end of the second academic term, giving communities and industry the opportunity to be involved and the Government sufficient time to consider our proposal and to keep the colleges open in 2020.
“We are 100% certain that, when the agriculture industry and rural communities come together, we will develop a plan that is financially sound and sustainable.”
Mrs Somerset said the primary aim was to ensure that everyone with an interest in the future of the Ag colleges would have their voices heard.
“I encourage anyone with ideas or suggestions to help keep the colleges open make contact with AgForce to express their views,” Mrs Somerset said.
“We look forward to a constructive and engaging discussion with a broad range of stakeholders to develop a plan that will underwrite the future of the primary industries.”