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Department of Education launches feasibility study into new agricultural college in the Kimberley

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
The WA College of Agriculture Harvey Class of 2022 celebrates their graduation.
Camera IconThe WA College of Agriculture Harvey Class of 2022 celebrates their graduation. Credit: WA College of Agriculture - Harv/RegionalHUB

The future is looking bright for youngsters pursuing a career in WA’s farm sector, with more high schools offering relevant courses and the State Government considering opening a new agricultural college in the Kimberley.

That’s according to Sally Panizza, a Southern Cross mixed farmer and the Department of Education’s agricultural education director.

Ms Panizza said there were more than 600 students in Years 10 to 12 enrolled in specialist programs at WA’s five existing Colleges of Agriculture in Cunderdin, Denmark, Harvey, Morawa and Narrogin.

“Our colleges have a long and proud history of educating senior secondary students on commercially viable farms. . . with demand for places high,” she said.

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“There is a deliberate focus on creating a young adult work environment, which I find most students thrive in.”

Ms Panizza made the comments at the University of WA Institute of Agriculture’s annual industry forum recently, and revealed the department was exploring the possibility of establishing a new agricultural college in the Kimberley.

“We are currently undertaking a feasibility study. . . which we hope to conclude later this year,” she said.

Department of Education agricultural education director Sally Panizza speaks at the UWA Institute of Agriculture’s 2023 industry forum.
Camera IconDepartment of Education agricultural education director Sally Panizza speaks at the UWA Institute of Agriculture’s 2023 industry forum. Credit: UWA Institute of Agriculture

A department spokeswoman told Countryman a business case was being prepared.

“In March, the Department of Education held workshops with the community and industry in Broome and Kununurra to identify the opportunities, education pathways and requirements of a potential agricultural college in the Kimberley Region,” she said.

The department did not answer questions including how much the new college might cost, whether Federal assistance would be sought, nor the kind of region-specific courses it might offer.

In addition, Ms Panizza said there were now nine schools offering “farm programs” across regional and metropolitan WA.

These were Coodanup College, Esperance Senior High School, Kelmscott Senior High School, Kiara College, Kojonup District High School, Manjimup Senior High School, Margaret River Senior High School, Mount Barker Community College and Pinjarra Senior High School.

Celebrating the first agriculture school to win the overall award in the Harvey Beef Gate 2 Plate Challenge was Harvest Road livestock buyer Jonathon Green with WA College of Agriculture - Harvey students Dakota Robinson, 17, Lewis Hordienko, 17, Alex McLarty, 17, Breanna MacDonald, 17, and Sam Cox, 17, with the school's assistant farm manager Ian Millichamp.
Camera IconCelebrating the first agriculture school to win the overall award in the Harvey Beef Gate 2 Plate Challenge was Harvest Road livestock buyer Jonathon Green with WA College of Agriculture - Harvey students Dakota Robinson, 17, Lewis Hordienko, 17, Alex McLarty, 17, Breanna MacDonald, 17, and Sam Cox, 17, with the school's assistant farm manager Ian Millichamp. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

“These schools are going from strength to strength and exposing a broader range of students to agriculture, which is critically important when we have stats floating around saying there are six jobs for every agriculture graduate,” Ms Panizza said.

“We have some significant land holdings across WA in the department, with a variety of agricultural experiences from cropping, dairy, horticulture, aquaculture, cattle, equine, poultry, pigs, sheep, viticulture, and we even are now the proud owners of a new herd of Nigerian dwarf goats at Kiara College.”

Ms Panizza runs a 16,000ha mixed cropping and sheep enterprise about 400km east of Perth with her husband and three children.

After being appointed the first female principal of the WA College of Agriculture – Cunderdin in 2018, she became the department’s first female agricultural education director in 2020.

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