State government pledges funding for Dookie College

By Country News

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is hoping to muster support from the agriculture sector with an $11.2million education, training and workplace safety package.

Mr Andrews, who was speaking from western Victoria on Melbourne Cup Day, announced $1.2million to expand Certificate III shearing courses for the public training system if his government is re-elected.

‘‘While wool prices have been very good and wool exports in (20)16-17 accounted for the best part of almost $2billion in wool exports, we have a shortage of qualified shearers and it’s one of those areas where government can step in and make a profound difference with training,’’ he said.

The course would not be a part of the government’s free TAFE program revealed during the May budget.

It will come in addition to existing shearing courses, and will be established by 2020, and be able to be completed in a year.

Shearer Woolhandler Training executive officer Chris Radcliffe said more opportunities to get people into the industry was a great thing.

‘‘There’s certainly a regional workforce deficit and we welcome the announcement from a training perspective,’’ he said.

‘‘According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there has been a 35 per cent decrease in shearers nationally since 2006, which will have impacts on regional areas.

‘‘If you pace that against the increase of the value of wool and sheep, you can see they don’t necessarily work with a drop in workforce.

‘‘There’s been cases with shearing contractors dropping runs because they can’t get the staff.’’

The announcement also included $6million to upgrade student accommodation and facilities, including a likely $2million for the University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus, with the rest of the funding evenly split between Longerenong and Glenormiston agricultural colleges, while $500000 has been put aside for young farmer scholarships.

A further $500000 has been pledged for digital agriculture practices and $3million to improve health and safety on farms.

Mr Andrews also promised a parliamentary review of farming council rates.

However, Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh accused Labor of being ‘‘city-centric’’ and not understanding ‘‘the pressure farmers are under with rates’’.

This was despite the Coalition also promising a review if elected.