The vast property has had no crops planted since 2016 and things are not looking good again for this year.
The endless plains of fertile grey clay soils hardly have enough vegetation to sustain the native animals and most of the dams are bone dry. Weaner cattle are being feedlotted with the last of the stored grain to background them. Nonetheless, the resilient farmers are keeping their chin up and getting together whenever possible.
Tocal College skills training team has been working hard this year to take much-needed training to rural communities that are doing it tough in the drought. "Walgett Week" in March and "Moree in May" delivered an intensive week of skills training to both communities, giving farmers and farm workers a break from the daily grind of drought and the chance to upskill.
Participants have received training in SMARTtrain III Chemical Application, Quadbike Safety, Forklift Licence, Safe Tractor Operations, Confined Spaces, Working at Heights and Four-wheel-drive operation. The main emphasis of training has been to meet the need of farm managers to emphasise safety awareness and risk mitigation.
Training at Moree was delivered with the co-operation of Lawson Grains and AMPS Moree. AMPS provided a training room and access to a forklift for training, and Lawson Grain made its farm facilities available to deliver training in Confined Space Entry and Working at Heights.
"Lawson Grain is committed to training to improve workplace safety across the company," said Lindsay George, farm manager for three Lawson Grains properties in the district. "We want to make sure all workers have the training and tickets required. We want all our staff to be properly trained to do their job safely, which includes things like working in confined spaces, working at heights, forklift operation and chainsaw operation. We really appreciate the opportunity to have this training delivered here."
The NSW Government has funded the training at Walgett and Moree. All this training has been fully subsidised under the AgSkilled funding program for the grains and cotton industries and quadbike training under the SafeWork Quadbike Safety program. These programs are supported by NSW Farmers, SafeWork NSW, Cotton Australia and GRDC.
The training courses also help support other businesses in the community. The team of Tocal trainers spent a week in each of these towns providing additional business for accommodation, catering and hospitality. For a small country town like Walgett it's much better to have trainers come to them and spend money in the town than for workers to have to travel away for training and spend their money elsewhere.
Walgett Week and Moree in May have proven to be an effective model for delivering an intensive week of training for a rural community. The success of these two events will be followed in August with "Coming to Coonamble", which will deliver a similar range of courses for that community.
- Contact Tocal College Skills Training Co-ordinators Jayne Wood on 02 6763 1285 or Estelle Cooper on 02 6951 2501.