The Nationals WA recognise agriculture and other primary industries are a vital part of the State’s economy that needs an appropriately skilled workforce. By investing in primary industry education in our schools we are developing the next generation of experts and practitioners. Failure to do this successfully may hinder the sector’s ability to respond to global and local pressures, in particular the role of digital technologies, the ongoing need to produce enough nutritious, safe, affordable food in a changing climate, and maintaining the sector’s social licence to operate.
The Nationals have a plan to deliver an appropriately funded and resourced Agricultural Education Directorate in the Department of Education, restore funding to the Agricultural Colleges cut by the McGowan Labor Government and review the infrastructure and capacity of each College with a view to expanding and upgrading these facilities. We will also extend the PRIMED program to integrate primary industry curriculum from primary through to secondary school.
In 2017 the McGowan Labor Government cut nearly $400,000 a year (20%) from the Agricultural Education Farm Provisions Trust – a funding pool self-managed by the five Colleges to underwrite the development of agricultural education programs, keep plant and equipment up-to-date and provide an authentic learning and work experience for students.
Despite these unnecessary cuts, several of the Colleges of Agriculture across the State are at capacity, and there is a backlog of infrastructure and maintenance issues to be addressed. Each College needs to be assessed in terms of future growth and capacity and a plan to fund these works prioritised.
The McGowan Labor Government also abolished the Director of Agricultural Education within the Department of Education and reduced the staff in the
directorate, diluting departmental support for agricultural education in the WA school system.
Several reports over the past three years have highlighted the challenges of engaging students in primary industry studies or career paths. The PRIMED project announced in October 2019 was a welcome development, however, it is focussed on secondary students and teachers when there is clear evidence that engagement needs to start earlier.
If The Nationals WA are returned to Government in March 2021 we will:
1. Deliver an appropriately funded and resourced Agricultural Education Directorate – Immediately deliver an appropriately funded and resourced Agricultural Education Directorate within the Department of Education, overseen by a Director of Agricultural Education.
2. Restore the Agricultural Education Farm Provisions Trust – Immediately restore the funding cut by the McGowan Labor Government from the Agricultural Education Farm Provisions Trust, removing the 20% dividend that has been applied since 2017.
3. Expand the PRIMED program – Consult with the sector and key stakeholders to explore opportunities to ensure all kindergarten, primary and secondary students are exposed to agricultural concepts and examples in their classrooms.
4. Expand and enhance our Agricultural Colleges – Within the first 100 days of Government we will complete a review of capacity constraints and infrastructure needs for each site. Funding to address these issues will be allocated over five years to ensure the Colleges remain competitive and modern, meeting the needs of industry.