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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10058

Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (21:15): This weekend in Tamworth a very special event will take place. It will be a celebration of 75 years of Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School. Farrer was established in 1939 and named in memory of William Farrer, the famous breeder of wheat. He bred a variety called Federation, which was instrumental in establishing Australia's cropping industry. Farrer Memorial is a New South Wales government owned boarding school set on 474 acres of land on the outskirts of Tamworth. Originally it was set up as a training ground for young men who were interested in a career in agriculture. Indeed, agriculture still underpins the curriculum at that school.

I was a student at Farrer from 1970 to the end of 1975. Next year will be 40 years since I left. I still have very fond memories, despite the fact that sometimes rose-coloured glasses come into play when you look back at your school years. As a 12-year-old responsible for milking cows at 4.30 on a winter's morning in Tamworth, it was not only character building but it was a place where great friendships were forged. In the time that I was at Farrer we saw a transition. In 1939 the original headmaster was Clarrie James, a well-regarded and loved gentleman, followed by Edgar Smiles. I managed to be a student for a couple of years under Edgar Smiles. When Norm Pether became the principal, we saw a dramatic turnaround. We saw the farm used more for agricultural experiment and education; whereas up until that time it had been run as a commercial enterprise.

While many of the students that go through Farrer study agriculture, quite frankly, not many of them end up in a career in agriculture. Some of my contemporaries include entertainers, the Director of Opera Australia and people who have made a career in law, finance and, dare I say it, even politics. The basic principles that we learnt at Farrer about looking after your mates, about being independent, about thinking for yourself and about being resourceful certainly carried us through our lives. It will be a great experience to be there to celebrate 75 years of this wonderful institution.

I played Rugby League while I was at Farrer, not to any great heights. Certainly the code of Rugby League underpins a lot of the school spirit. Many players who made it into the first grade of the NRL and many who now have senior positions in management at the NRL made their way through the ranks at Farrer school. I was one of the more average players of the second 13, but I certainly have very fond memories of that time.

I pay my respects to all those people who have been involved—teachers and students, those still living and those who have passed on—and hope we can take time to reflect on 75 years of a wonderful institution, one that I was very proud to be a student of and one that I hope will continue for many years to come.