LONGREACH Pastoral College has celebrated 50 years since first opening its doors to students in 1967.
It seems fitting that the class of 2017 commenced their semester on Monday, February 6 - the exact same date as the inaugural students all those years ago. The auspicious occasion was commemorated with Longreach Pastoral College local board members, staff, new students and their families attending a cake cutting and morning tea.
Longreach Pastoral College local board member Rosemary Champion was delighted to attend the ceremony, reminiscing on a determined community rallying together to found a pioneering regional education facility.
"At that time, a lot of people in the region built their wealth on the back of the sheep and wool boom. They had pride in and wanted to contribute to their community, their industry, and regional Queensland in general,” Mrs Champion said.
Mrs Champion explained her father, Sir James Walker, his brother Lloyd Walker, and other prominent members of the community wanted to improve local access to education.
"It was quite normal for students to leave school after Year 8 and help on the family property or look for work on the land. The logistics of continuing on to high school and higher education was certainly not an easy task for the students and their families.
"It was a giant leap for a regional community in that era to open a world-class facility specialising in sheep and wool.
"That we can make it through 50 years is a testament to the passion of an outback community and all the subsequent supporters of the college. It puts us in good stead to move forward into our next 50 years.”
Longreach Pastoral College local board chair Richard Pietsch concurs.
"The fact that we were one of the earliest agricultural colleges in Queensland, and we've survived, says a lot,” he said. "We are motivated by this milestone to look to the future.”
Since its establishment, Longreach Pastoral College has been embraced by industry and has seen students enrol not just from Queensland but throughout Australia.
Over its 50-year history, thousands of students, staff and community members have benefited from their association with the college.
While closely aligned with the sheep and wool industry, Longreach graduates have also gone on to be leaders in other fields, including journalism, politics and agribusiness. It is a proud history that Longreach Pastoral College is determined to build on.
"The college has always had a focus on practical training, but to ensure its continuing relevance in an evolving industry, we are expanding the opportunities available,” Mr Pietsch said.
"An example of how we are facilitating this includes forging partnerships with industry bodies and universities. The college property, Rosebank, was a research station prior to the college acquiring it, and we are working with post-grad students to recommence sheep and wool-related research in the coming 12 months.”
Mr Pietsch elaborated on the research potential of the college, saying government funding for agricultural research, such as that done by the CSIRO, has shrunk considerably but the revival currently occurring in Australian agriculture creates a prime opportunity for industry to take up their own research in areas directly relevant to them.
"We are in an excellent location to help facilitate research into arid zone agriculture in Queensland,” Mr Pietsch said.
"In terms of skills training, obviously Longreach Pastoral College has the facilities and location to specialise in sheep and wool production,” he said.
"However, our partnership with Emerald Agricultural College also means students can experience a whole-of-business approach to studying beef production, with their training spanning two different production regions.”
When asked what the college founders would think of the anniversary and future of the college, Mrs Champion remarked: "I believe the founders would be extremely proud of the legacy, and continuing relevance and aspirations, of the college.
"They would also be delighted to see that the college has endured to see the Queensland sheep and wool industry return to its current period of investment and positivity.
"Longreach Pastoral College has had a massive impact, particularly on the sheep and wool industry, as one of the leading education centres specialising in the sector. The college has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in preparing students for success not just in sheep and wool, but other agriculture-related industries as well.”
A Longreach Pastoral College Past Students and Staff Association 50 Year Reunion is being held September 22-24. If you are a past student or staff member who is interested in attending, visit lpc50.com.au to register.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.