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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3390

Mr LYONS (Bass) (12:01): I rise to speak on the motion put forward by the member for Murray, who, as we have just heard, spoke on the importance of career opportunities in the agricultural sector. With this year being the Year of the Farmer, it is a fitting topic for discussion. As I said when I spoke recently about this year being the Year of the Farmer, agriculture offers a special way of life for so many families around Australia. Some farms are handed down over generations. Other people are brought into farming life. It is estimated that approximately 319,800 people are in the agricultural workforce in Australia. Working in the agricultural sector is open to a wide range of people from different backgrounds who all have differing skill levels. Farming is not just about knowing how to work the land; it requires a high level of knowledge and includes many skill areas of science, innovation and business. It also requires a hardworking attitude and strong commitment and passion.

The agriculture sector in Australia is vibrant and has a strong future. With this in mind, we need to be growing our workforce in this sector to keep up with demand. With Australia producing so many quality items, the demand is sure to continue to grow. As a society we need to be strongly encouraging more people to consider careers in the agricultural sector. Figures indicate that there are not enough students graduating from quality tertiary institutions to meet the requirements of the industry. This is concerning, and that is why we need more students to consider working in the industry. The opportunities in the industry are enormous and it offers great rewards. To keep our nation clothed and fed, to grow and to sell wonderful fresh produce and importantly, to see their bumper crop being harvested and know that all of their hard work has paid off are the greatest rewards of a farmer.

As a nation we need to encourage new people into farming. The exciting career options for young people in the agricultural sector need to be constantly highlighted to ensure that our farming communities remain strong and resilient into the future. While a career in the agriculture sector may not be the first idea that crosses a student's mind, as a society we need to make this a consideration for people. Industry, government, farmers and education bodies should work collaboratively to encourage more students to actively consider a career in agriculture. Agricultural units also receive a high rate of government funding at university level.

We need to educate our children from a young age about farmers and their vital role in society. I have heard stories recently about children who do not understand where milk actually comes from. Recent studies have also indicated that many students, and even some teachers, are not aware of the importance of innovation, research and development in agriculture. This is concerning, as concepts such as this are the core of the farming industry. To research, create and develop farming practice and then put it into action is at the core of most farming enterprises. It is concepts such as these that students need to be taught in schools, so that the agricultural sector is more widely and better understood. Let us make sure that students understand that there is more to the industry than the image of negativity that is often shown in the media. Yes, there are hard times but there are also great rewards to accompany a special way of life. It is important that our children know, understand and can contribute as farmers to society. Let us start educating our children and our communities so that we can support our farmers and recognise exactly what they do for our nation—such as providing fresh produce for everyone to enjoy. Let us also encourage our youth to consider agriculture as a career. There are so many exciting career possibilities in the agricultural sector and they require a range of skills and an ever-increasing workforce to meet the increasing demand.

The agricultural sector requires inventors, innovators, adaptors and researchers—those who can battle the vagaries of nature and who are rewarded by the product of hard work. If we as Australians are to maintain our quality of life, we must encourage people to be educated and to work in the agricultural sector.