Cunderdin and Harvey students join forces for 2021 WorldSkills Australia National Championships
When cyclone Seroja wrought havoc across WA’s Mid West, best mates Geoff Tozer and Toby Emmett didn’t hesitate to get stuck into the relief effort.
The WA College of Agriculture — Harvey Year 12 students were holidaying in Northampton when the cyclone bore down on the small community, flattening homes, historic buildings and farm infrastructure indiscriminately.
They spent the next week mending broken fences, relocating sheep, clearing paddocks of debris and helping evacuate farming families to safe lodgings.
“There was not much else to do except help out when something like that happens, so we were straight onto it,” Toby explained.
“We started with Geoff’s cousins’ farm; there was three out of four shearing sheds demolished and heaps of branches and stuff.
“Then we continued on to a family friend’s farm, they had lost their house unfortunately, so we spent quite a few days out there cleaning up and helping them get back onto their feet.”
With farmers anxious to start seeding, Geoff said it was just a matter of helping out wherever they could.
“We went from farm to farm to all our extended family and friends,” he said.
“There was a lot of sheep that were out because the fences had fallen down, so there was a fair bit of time spent moving sheep from farm to farm, trying to find farms with fences still up.
“We were just trying to help them get enough packed away so they could start seeding, because that was the biggest thing on everybody’s mind at the time.”
The pair’s experience proved useful late last month when they competed in the 2021 WorldSkills Australia National Championships at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The event attracted hundreds of youngsters keen to showcase their skills on a national stage as they vied to be crowned Australian national champion in their chosen skill.
Geoff and Toby competed alongside students from WA College of Agri-culture — Cunderdin in the Primary Industries event, which tested competency and speed in a range of farm skills including fencing, fertilising, livestock handling, machinery work and soil testing.
The combined Harvey and Cunderdin team was selected after both colleges drew and won the Farm Skills 2019 competition, with last year’s event cancelled due to COVID-19.
Toby, who hails from the small town of Allanson near Collie, said there was great camaraderie between competitors despite the heated competition.
“There was only three marks separating the four of us on the second day, and after that we won’t know how our scores went until October,” he said.
“It was definitely a unique experience competing and representing the college and State,” added Geoff, who was raised in Leschenault near Bunbury.
“It was an honour to have that opportunity and it was just a good time in general.”
Though neither Geoff nor Toby grew up on a farm, both are keen to pursue careers in broad acre and sheep farming.
Geoff, who was recently accepted into Murdoch University to study a Bachelor of Law, but is also interested in agricultural science, said he would take a gap year before making a decision.
“I’ll just work around Northampton on different farms — harvest, seeding, sheep work and all that — and after that gap year I’ll decide whether I want to pursue a more ag-based degree or do that law degree,” he said.
“I’ve already done a fair bit of work on farms on my school holidays, so I’ll just do it for a solid year and see how I feel at the end of it.”
For Toby, who is interested in studying at Muresk, a similar path beckons.
“We’re both endeavouring to get into agriculture after we leave school and looking forward to getting out and actually making a difference,” he said.
WA College of Agriculture — Harvey principal Stephen Watt said the boys were chosen to represent the college because of their excellent application and proven ability to work well under stress in a range of different circumstances.
“They can handle anything asked of them,” he said.
No strangers to high stakes situations, the pair once had to rescue Geoff’s father after he was knocked unconscious and shattered his leg when their boat was hit by a rogue 4m wave while fishing near Northampton.
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