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Rural course changing lives

LOOKING AHEAD: Josh Ray believes without the SQIT jackeroo/jillaroo program he would be “homeless or in jail”.
LOOKING AHEAD: Josh Ray believes without the SQIT jackeroo/jillaroo program he would be “homeless or in jail”. Toni Somes

YOUNG stockman Josh Ray would prefer to be drafting cattle than answering questions, but he feels so strongly about the future of the SQIT jackeroo/jillaroo program he has put aside his anxiety.

He enrolled in the Warwick-based jackeroo/jillaroo program last year and credits the hands-on certificate two and three course in animal husbandry for giving him desperately needed direction.

"If I wasn't doing this program I would be homeless or in jail," the 21-year-old said.

He came from a "long history of domestic violence" and said the rural program not only introduced him to the world of agriculture, but taught him to trust people again.

"I know what I want to do now. I want to be in the rural industry. I love working."

So taken was he by the course last year he would walk an hour from his family home on the northern side of Warwick to classes at the TAFE campus on the city's south.

He was on suicide watch at home and I just know if he hadn't started this program we would have buried him last year.

His mother Kathy Latham struggles to explain the powerful, positive impact the program has had on her son.

"Josh was very traumatised by the violence we went through, to the point where he had withdrawn from the world," she said.

"He was on suicide watch at home and I just know that if he hadn't started this program we would have buried him last year.

"That was the reality for us, it was that bad. So this course not only changed his life, it saved his life."

She believes working with animals and the environment - under the supervision of his TAFE teachers - has worked more effectively than any therapy.

"He sees the future now and he has hope and confidence."

And from last week Josh also has his first job working part-time as a stablehand at a local horse stud.

This year he now plans to complete his Certificate III in Animal Husbandry (he finished the Certificate II course in 2013) as well as a horse breeding course through Warwick TAFE.

"This course, it needs to keep going, it has changed me, but I had also seen it change other people.

"It makes a difference."

Topics:  jillaroo sqit warwick tafe