Con­cerns as pro­gram for bush ed­u­ca­tion is slashed

School­child­ren to miss out on bush ed­u­ca­tion

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL GUERIN CEO AgForce

SINCE 2004, the School to In­dus­try Part­ner­ship (SIPP) pro­gram has helped teach Queens­land pri­mary school stu­dents where their food comes from and show high school stu­dents the many job op­por­tu­ni­ties in agri­cul­ture avail­able to them.

The hands-on pro­gram is unique to Queens­land and en­gages with more than 10,000 stu­dents and teach­ers every year right across the state.

Events like the pop­u­lar Moo Baa Munch agri­cul­tural aware­ness days have pro­vided the first op­por­tu­nity for many chil­dren to touch sheep, cat­tle and chick­ens, to learn that cot­ton is from a plant, to pull veg­eta­bles from a gar­den and to climb over trac­tors.

SIPP was first funded by the Beat­tie La­bor Govern­ment and has been sup­ported by every State Govern­ment since on the back of the wide­spread sup­port it has across agri­cul­ture, and from schools, teach­ers and stu­dents.

100 per cent of the $181,000 in govern­ment fund­ing pro­vided on an an­nual ba­sis goes to­wards the em­ploy­ment of two part-time staff and the de­liv­ery of whole-of-agri­cul­ture ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and ser­vices.

That’s why AgForce was so dis­mayed to re­ceive a let­ter from the Queens­land De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries stat­ing that “DAF is un­able to con­trib­ute any fund­ing to SIPP be­yond 2018”.

This de­ci­sion comes as polling con­ducted by the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion for Na­tional Ag Day last year found that 83 per cent of Aus­tralians would de­scribe their con­nec­tion with farm­ing as “dis­tant” or “non-ex­is­tent”.

Cut­ting fund­ing to an agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram will only fur­ther this dis­con­nect.

It will mean fewer Queens­land kids learn­ing about where their food comes from and how it is pro­duced.

It will mean fewer of the next gen­er­a­tion pur­su­ing a ca­reer in ag at a time when the in­dus­try is al­ready fac­ing crit­i­cal skills short­ages and tech­nol­ogy is trans­form­ing the way we farm. It will mean the end of ded­i­cated in­dus­try tours that give stu­dents di­rect con­tact with pri­mary pro­duc­ers and po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers. And it will mean less in­dus­try sup­port and fewer pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for our hard-work­ing ag teach­ers.

Since news broke about this fund­ing cut, I’ve been heart­ened to see the out­pour­ing of sup­port for the pro­gram from teach­ers, stu­dents, farm­ers, in­dus­try groups and ev­ery­day Queens­lan­ders.

An on­line pe­ti­tion has been set up via change.org at https://bit.ly/2xpKcgO while many have taken to so­cial me­dia to share their sto­ries about what the pro­gram meant to them.

I’d en­cour­age Ru­ral Weekly read­ers to keep voic­ing their sup­port for SIPP and sup­port our cam­paign to re­verse this cut. Sign the on­line pe­ti­tion,

SIPP: Stu­dents from Dalby State High School, Dalby Chris­tian Col­lege, and Our Lady of the South­ern Cross at­tend a Dalby Ag In­spi­ra­tions event at the Camm Agri­cul­tural Group’s Wonga Plains Feed­lot. PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTEDshare our posts on so­cial me­dia us­ing the hash­tag #SaveSIPP and email Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Mark Furner at agri­cul­ture@ min­is­te­rial.qld.gov.au to urge him to pro­vide fund­ing so this im­por­tant pro­gram can con­tinue.

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