Recruitment problems at Muresk core

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Charles Sturt University agribusiness students Jessica Herzer, Ulla Crossley, Matthew Richards and Jarrod Barton.
Camera IconCharles Sturt University agribusiness students Jessica Herzer, Ulla Crossley, Matthew Richards and Jarrod Barton. Credit: Rueben Hale

The Muresk Old Collegians’ Association claims dwindling enrolments at Muresk Institute have been caused by the State Government’s reluctance to support courses offered at the Northam-based facility.

A Bachelor of Agricultural Management degree has been delivered in partnership by Charles Sturt University and Central Regional TAFE for the past four years after Curtin withdrew from the campus in 2009.

Taught at Muresk’s on-farm campus, complete with crops, livestock, and business management, the degree was spruiked as a way for students to gain a tertiary education in the bush.

But the Government will stop subsidising the course at the end of the year, saying the decision was made after considering an independent evaluation of the degree’s financial viability. There are now fears as to whether CSU will continue at Muresk.

MOCA member Graham Storer said the promotions and recruitment of new students last year was badly managed by the government department responsible for maintaining and improving the online enrolment website. He said it was the only reason enrolments dropped off so suddenly.

“The withdrawal of State Government funding will mean it is almost impossible for the course to survive,” he said.

“The goal of the Government should be to encourage young people into agriculture/agribusiness and provide them with their preferred option to study at a university in a rural area ... or this growing sector will be lost.”

Current Muresk students studying the BABM degree say if the course was to discontinue, it could undermine Muresk Institute as a centre of excellence in agricultural education.

A Rimfire Resources report in March showed there had been a growing demand for workers in agriculture and agribusiness in the past eight years.

In 2016, 3600 jobs were advertised across Australia with 500 of these in WA. However, there are less than 600 agriculture course graduates across Australia, with only 50 to 60 in WA.

Agribusiness student Jess Herzer said she came to Muresk after finishing high school at Cunderdin Ag College.

“I enjoyed the livestock side of Cunderdin and I received a scholarship to come to Muresk,” she said. “I like it here because it is regional, and I am from Northam, so it is pretty close to home.

“I love the crop management unit which involves going out the paddock and watching the crop grow through the different stages of the growth cycle.”

Fellow student Holley Crowley said she considered studying agriculture at Murdoch University.

“I enrolled as a slightly older student through their OnTrack Sprint program, and I looked at getting in the agriculture program from there,” she said.

“I talked to other students ... (and) was told if I wanted to do agriculture at Murdoch, I would be waiting until at least my second year before I would even get a taste of agriculture focused subjects, so I decided not to study in the city but to come and do the BABM course at Muresk.”

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails