Education in the regions critical

By WAFarmers President Tony York

It is deeply concerning to see the McGowan Government’s current activities affecting regional education. We need every encouragement and incentive to keep people living and working in regional areas and, at present, the State Government is diminishing vital services for our communities.

The closure of the Moora Residential College will have detrimental impacts on Moora and surrounding communities. As a farmer and member of a regional community, I know how important these services are to maintain the economy and social morale of the town. The closure of Moora Residential College would have significant economic effects on the local community and its potential for growth.

The Moora community is asking for minimal spend on the infrastructure to keep it running. The college does not need full renovations; just small maintenance works to get the building up to scratch. The Shire of Moora and school P&C estimate the essential repairs and maintenance could cost as little as $160,000.

It is disheartening that instead of investing the small amount of money needed to ensure the residential college can stay open so that WA students can receive their education in the regions, the State Government expects the families of Moora to just send their kids further away from home, or put their kids on a bus for a few hours a day.

This is just not sustainable for the regions or the families involved.

It is also troubling to hear of the State Government’s plan to take a percentage of the Agricultural Education Provisions Trust.

The trust fund allows school farms to maintain and replace equipment and machinery to meet industry standards and safety requirements, therefore helping students to develop their skills with the most up-to-date technologies. The fund also acts as an emergency reserve for displeasing seasons, so diminishing this trust fund will have a huge impact on the viability of our agricultural colleges.

If the State Government cannot reverse this decision, then I would like to see a sunset clause put on this money grab. The trust may be able to survive one or two years of depleting funds, but will soon be exhausted if the government continues to raid its dividends.

The future of agriculture is about science and technology, and the people within it. Agriculture is the fastest growing industry within Australia, with WA’s agriculture college system being the envy of every other state. We must endeavour to offer the best opportunities to students, and to educate and inspire people to work within the most crucial sector in this state.

What encouragement does this raid of the funds give to our young people aspiring to work within the industry?

Given the State Government’s actions, it is not surprising that many are asking if the government considers people living in rural and regional areas to be as important as those living the city.

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