Filling the Food Bowl - shaping Australia's agrifoods future

Skilling the Food Bowl

- February 24 at Clarendon House, Evandale -

First came Filling (see below) and then there was Skilling the Food Bowl - a forum focused specifically on skills, training and education in the agrifoods industry.

This successful policy development forum was held at Clarendon House, Evandale, on February 24.

I co-hosted the event with State Liberals Deputy Leader Jeremy Rockliff and Federal Liberal Candidate for Lyons Eric Hutchinson.

We were pleased that both the Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training, Christopher Pyne and West Australian Senator Chris Back traveled to Tasmania to participate in the forum.

Senator Back is currently chairing the Senate Committee Inquiry looking at the higher education and skills training needed to support future demand for agriculture and agribusiness in Australia.

More than 60 people, including representatives from schools, farming and related businesses, stakeholder groups, rural communities and organisations such as the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Polytechnic, Tasmanian Landcare Association, Primary Industry Centre for Science Education and Australian Women in Agriculture, participated in the event.

A key message we heard loud and clear was that Australia, not just Tasmania, must address the skills needs in its food bowl regions to achieve the bright future we believe is possible for our agrifood industry.

The disconnection of agriculture with the broader community is demonstrated by the following student based statistics:

  • 75% of year 6 students thought cotton socks are an animal product.
  • 27% of year 10 students thought yoghurt is a plant product.
  • Only 45% of students linked innovation to farming

Training, skills and education pathways related to agriculture and agribusiness are pressing issues all around Australia right now.

We know the problems that currently exist impact industry and communities, and the attendance by a wide range of groups reflected that.

A common vision of an ideal 'education system' was developed by participants. It included:

  • A cohesive, integrated, flexible and accessible education system from pre-school to post graduate.
  • A broad based curriculum that engages and caters for people at all stages of their education / career.
  • Agricultural concepts and skills incorporated into mainstream curricula.
  • Clear pathways, qualifications and career options.
  • Teachers with ready access to a broad range of resources, including farmers, scientists and more traditional teaching materials.
  • Strong linkages with industry.
  • Vibrant school farms connecting students, the environment and the community

How do we get there?
Our participants agreed on many of the issues raised and that there were many issues to tackle:

  • Image barriers - not a "sexy" industry; no financial incentive; hard work; isolated workplaces; environmental challenges; lack of broader community understanding of the role farming community has in providing their food and fibre.
  • Pathway barriers - what is an "agricultural" career, and do you get from school to one of these a career path? There are a range of jobs in the rural sector aside from "farmer".
  • Industry barriers - Can industry get more involved in course structures and education institutes? Can levels of the education system coordinate better, both with industry and within themselves?
  • Resource barriers - Lack of skilled educators, and lack of funds for rural education institutes. Can we better educate the educators?

Skilling the Food Bowl gave us much food for thought in this important policy area. What's mentioned above is really just snapshot and the event confirmed that there is no substitute for grassroots consultation.

I'm looking forward to working with my State and Federal colleagues in the months ahead to develop sound policies which address the important matters raised.

If you were unable to attend Skilling the Food Bowl, you might like to read over the presentations below, which have kindly been provided by our guest speakers.

Ian Macleod's PresentationBen Stockwin's Presentation

Filling the Food Bowl - Deloraine forum 15/10/11

Our Liberal policy forum Filling the Food Bowl was a great success.

More than 50 people from across the food supply chain attended the event held in Deloraine on Saturday, October 15.

The program included three thought-provoking presentations from our guest speakers - Jan Davis from the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Kate Carnell from the Australian Food and Grocery Council, and Tom Lewis from RDS Partners.

If you missed the forum or you would like to revisit the themes, your can download Jan, Kate and Tom's presentations here.

Jan Davis - TFGA presentation Kate Carnell - AFGC presentationTom Lewis - RDS Partners presentation