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Belief in the bush

Jack Patterson fencing as part of his Certificate II in Agriculture on a property near Goombungee in Queensland.
Jack Patterson fencing as part of his Certificate II in Agriculture on a property near Goombungee in Queensland. Andrew Patterson

JACK Patterson is the first to admit he might have "wagged" a few lessons way back when he was a school of distance education student.

It was simply that the lure of the bush - motorbikes and working alongside his dad - occasionally overwhelmed his interest in primary school classes.

Now he's in Year 12 and decidedly more focused on what's happening in the classroom. But longer term this articulate teenager believes he could have a career in agriculture.

He credits his dad, Andrew Patterson, with being his "major mentor" and instilling in him a love and early understanding of the rural industry.

This edition of the Rural Weekly talks with this country born and bred father and son about training the next generation in the bush.

Jack:

For a large part of my life I have lived on properties that Dad managed or was overseer on.

I grew up on several properties varying in size in the Cunnamulla and Bourke Districts that mainly were large-scale sheep and cattle operations with two properties also having cropping enterprises.

I did Distance Education through the Charleville SDE from the start of my schooling until Year Six, which meant I was doing school at home.

Straight after school finished, or even sneaking out before mum noticed, I was often out with Dad working around the place or doing things outside such as riding my motorbikes, which is one of my favourite pastimes.

My parents decided to send me to boarding school in Year Seven, which I did until year eight at Toowoomba Prep and Toowoomba Grammar.

When our last property sold our family made the decision to move to Toowoomba to try something different and I became a day student.

Now I am in Year 12, which has its challenges.

I love playing many sports, mainly rugby, that often take up a large part of my day-to-day life.

Everyone who grows up on a property has an interest in agriculture to some degree.

If they choose to act on it, is up to them.

Growing up in a rural setting set me up for a great interest in agriculture as it was what I knew and what I came to love.

Q: Have you had much experience working in the bush?

I don't know everything, far from it, but a whole range of people have taught me what I know over the years about how to run a property and I still have a lot to learn.

Living on properties for most of my life I think that this has been a major advantage to me.

However I believe Dad has been a major mentor in my 'bush education' as he has taught me how thing are done in the bush from a very early age and a large majority of it I will keep with me for the rest of my life.

Doing a Certificate II (in agriculture) has definitely widened my knowledge about the rural industry. This ties back into having different people with different opinions teaching me in one general direction on how to do things.

Doing a Cert II was easier than doing a school-based Cert III as the current drought that is ravaging Western Queensland makes it hard for property owners to employ a trainee as they have to pay the student a wage, which often puts strain on them.

Q: Why do you want to work in the bush?

Well honestly the bush lifestyle is what I love the most about it.

I love getting in and doing some hard work but apart from that, things such as the real sense of community that rural people have is what appeals to me.

The bush is not all that dissimilar from boarding school, where the people you meet there often become your mates for life.

My passion for a lot of my life has been flying so my ideal jobs would to be eventually become a pilot as I have been some would call obsessed with aeroplanes since I could walk.

Q: Do you feel the rural industry has a lot of opportunities to offer young people like you?

If you go looking for it and look in the right places I do firmly believe that the rural industry has many opportunities for young people. I think the bush is one of those places that is great for a young person to go out and work for a year or so and work out what he or she wants in life.

Like you can get away from everyone and truly think what your life's dreams and ambitions are, even if you don't picture them to be in the rural industry.

Even for young people that are not from a rural background, working in the bush is a great opportunity for if they aren't sure what they want to do with themselves, they have an opportunity do something different and broaden their horizons to take with them to do what they want to do.

The things that young people pick up in the bush can greatly help them in their chosen professions.

Not just things like how to ride a motorbike or how to put up a fence.

But things as simple as learning how to act politely in front of the boss and his family at a dinner table.

Q: Are you confident about the long-term future of agriculture?

Well in all things you have to be positive about it.

The agricultural industry still has a bucket-load of potential in the future to be a major part of what Australia is because at the end of the day if there is no farmers, it's not going to be much fun gnawing off plastic or coal.

I definitely want to be involved, even if it is not through employment, because the bush never really goes away from you.

The bush would be an ideal workplace I would like to work in as there is such a wide variety of career paths in the agricultural industry.

Andrew:

I was born and bred at Cunnamulla and lived 100km south-east at Gamarren Station and went to boarding school after been taught correspondence by my mother.

After school I went jackarooing then eventually overseeing, then managing properties around Cunnamulla and Bourke.

The last place I managed. Mulgawarrina, at Coolabah New South Wales. was getting sold and we had two kids at boarding school and a third about to start so we decided to move to Toowoomba.

My wife got a job with the council at the end of 2011 and I stayed on and got the property ready for sale and in that time my wife heard of the job with (Toowoomba-based training group) Ag Training so I started with them in May 2012.

Q: What are the trends in training for agriculture?

We have a lot of interest in our Certificate III guarantee course, which is half ag and half civil with school leavers and the unemployed trying to better their skills.

We also train forklift tickets, heavy machinery tickets, Cert III in civil construction. A lot of interest from schools but the problem with doing a cert as a school kid is that you need to be employed to get through your traineeship.

Q: Do most people coming to you for ag training have a rural background?

No, not all of them.

Q: How important is training?

The bigger companies will require their staff to have Cert III in Ag and machinery tickets. Usually the Cert III will be done while they working.

I think on the insurance side of employing someone is going to be better for you to have someone with a ticket than someone who has not.

Q: Has there been an increased emphasis on training by employers in an attempt to reduce on-farm type accidents?

A lot of the bigger ag companies ask us to train their staff in quad bikes, tractors, working at heights and confined spaces.

I see quad bikes is going to be a big one that will require staff to be trained for.

There are too many accidents on them.

Q: In your opinion what are the job prospects like in agriculture?

I think the sheep and cattle industry in the west and the north will take time to recover when this drought finally ends, as they have to get their stock numbers and bank accounts viable again before they start employing.

Still plenty of jobs in the far north and Western Australia in the cattle industry.

The big farming companies are still employing. I think it is a good experience for any young person to spend time in the rural industry.

Q: Are you confident about the long-term future of agriculture?

As my son says it is pretty hard to eat plastic.

We will always have to grow crops and breed sheep and cattle for human consumption.

Topics:  agriculture bourke charleville cunnamulla farming rural