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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 1

I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851

II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888

III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927
i Colleges of agriculture
ii State Departments of Agriculture
iii University faculties of agriculture and veterinary science
iv Community support for agricultural research

IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987

V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988

VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research

VII Future Prospects

VIII Acknowledgements



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Colleges of agriculture

During the second half of the century pressures for establishing agricultural colleges in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales became irresistible. Although many in the rural community were suspicious of a theoretical and scientific training in agriculture, a sufficient number of protagonists finally persuaded governments to support the idea.

First came Roseworthy College (1885) in South Australia, whose first professor was J. D. Custance, a Cirencester graduate, who was imported from England. Following the publication in Victoria of several articles by A. R. Wallis describing the training he had also received at Cirencester, the government was eventually persuaded to set up, first, an experimental farm and then an agricultural college (1886) at Dookie in north-eastern Victoria.

In 1874, J. Joubert, secretary of the Agricultural Society of New South Wales, returned from visits to South Australia and Victoria and urged that 'experimental farms and stations, agricultural schools and colleges should be established in various parts of the colony.' The proposal was, however, regarded as controversial and expensive and, despite parliamentary motions, ministerial promises and continued reminders from the press and the rural community, little was achieved during the next 15 years. In 1888 another Cirencester graduate, F. B. Kyngdon, presented a paper to the Agricultural Society of New South Wales in which he supported the use of a proposed reformatory school as an agricultural college. Eventually Professor R. Wallace of Edinburgh University (formerly a lecturer at Cirencester) visited the colony, addressed the Agricultural Society and conferred with the Premier, Sir Henry Parkes. In the words of the Australian Town and Country Journal, 'the fact is that Sir Henry Parkes and his colleagues have simply yielded to pressure. They would ignore agriculture altogether if it were possible.' Nevertheless, for whatever reason, the decision was finally made and Hawkesbury Agricultural College was formally opened in March, 1891.

Similar arguments and pressures took longer to achieve results in Queensland, where Gatton Agricultural College did not take its first students until July, 1897; in Tasmania, where its shortlived college was established in 1915; and in Western Australia where Muresk Agricultural College was not opened until 1926. A second Victorian college, at Longerenong in the Wimmera, was founded in 1889 but was closed from 1897 until 1905, due mainly to the reduction in finances and students following a series of severe droughts.

When they were first established the primary objective of all the agricultural colleges was to train young people (essentially men!) for farming. For example, an early prospectus of Hawkesbury College was typical of the other colleges when it stated that:

The primary object that the Department of Agriculture has in view in establishing the above mentioned College and Farm is to train young men in the practice and science of agriculture, and as far as possible to fit them for the profitable management of farms.

Gradually, during the next 100 years, this objective was modified until, finally, in the case of many colleges, it was changed altogether. By the 1950s most colleges were aiming to provide the

background and qualifications required for positions in the public service, as field officers of the Department of Agriculture, the Soil Conservation Service, the Valuer General's Department; as country valuers for the Rural Bank of NSW and Commonwealth Bank of Australia; as technical officers for CSIRO; as supervisors for Young Farmers Clubs, as teachers of agriculture in state and non-state schools; as field officers with firms, e.g. machinery, fertilizer, disease and pest control, canning, closely associated with agriculture; and as technicians and technologists for the dairying and other food processing industries (Hawkesbury College Prospectus, 1952).

More recently, as the colleges have cut their ties with their State Departments of Agriculture and become autonomous colleges of advanced education, giving a range of under-graduate and, increasingly, post-graduate courses in applied science and business management, their farmer training role has virtually been abandoned and, in many cases, they see themselves as institutions of general vocational education rather than as agricultural colleges.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Agricultural Society of New South Wales; Dookie, Vic., experimental farm and agricultural college; Gatton Agricultural College, Qld; Hawkesbury Agricultural College, N.S.W; Longerenong Agricultural College, Vic.; Muresk Agricultural College, W.A.; Roseworthy Agricultural College, S.A.

People in Bright Sparcs - Custance, J. D.; Joubert, J.; Kyngdon, F. B.; Wallace, Prof. R.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 17 - 18, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher