Key parts of the State’s public agricultural education system will be overhauled to ensure the sector’s future is in safe hands if The Nationals WA are returned to Government next March.
Leader Mia Davies said the policy reflected her party’s long-standing position to make ag-ed more prominent and ensure WA remains at the forefront of a globally competitive primary industries sector.
The policy announcement comes after the Labor Government abolished the Director of Agricultural Education in 2017 and began raiding $400,000 per year from the Agricultural Education Farm Provisions Trust, which is used to support 16 public schools deliver agricultural education programs.
“We will ensure the Agricultural Education Directorate is well resourced so it delivers a laser sharp focus on our unique ag-ed system,” she said.
“That includes reinstating the Director of Agricultural Education and funding the directorate to the tune of $600,000 per year for staffing and administration support.
“We will also remove the 20 per cent tax Labor placed on the Trust, meaning more revenue generated by our agricultural college farms is reinvested back into ag-ed learning environments.”
Money taken from the trust has impacted the ability of colleges to keep equipment and machinery modern and safe, with millions of dollars’ worth of equipment now more than 15 years old.
Ms Davies said students needed modern learning environments and – along with parents and teachers – deserved and expected equipment consistent with current safety standards.
The Nationals WA also plan to review and solve enrolment and residential capacity constraints impacting five WA Colleges of Agriculture, some of which have had to turn students away.
Another component will examine how agriculture can be interlaced into classrooms from kindergarten to Year 12 so more students are exposed to agricultural learning and career opportunities.
Education spokesperson Peter Rundle said the sector needed a State Government willing to invest in the next generation of agricultural professionals and leaders, not hit it with taxes and key job cuts.
“Increasing student awareness of opportunities the sector offers, streamlining access to careers and eliminating capacity constraints in WA Colleges of Agriculture will sustain WA’s reputation as one of the most cutting edge ag sectors in the world,” he said.
“To keep pace globally and ensure our next generation of agriculture leaders have the knowledge and tools to drive the sector to new heights, agricultural education must be properly funded and resourced in WA.”
To read the discussion paper click here.