Victorian farmers have welcomed the state government’s announcement of of a $20 million commitment for skills and safety initiatives contained in the new ‘Victorian Agriculture Skills Statement: Smarter, Safer Farms’ program.
The package includes plans to establish a Farm Safety Council in partnership with the Victorian Farmers Federation, and other bodies, to oversee implementation of $10 million in safe farming initiatives.
The state Government will also provide $10 million to establish a Farm Skills Victoria initiative to focus on training in financial literacy, risk management, farm planning and adaptation to climate change.
The Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said farm safety and skills development had been identified as key areas of need in the VFF’s election campaign.
“The announcement of the $10 million Farm Safety Council and associated package to be implemented in partnership with the VFF, is in line with one of VFF’s key election asks – which is to address the need for industry and farmer-led cultural and behavioural change when it comes to farm safety,” said Mr Jochinke.
“The fact that more than half of workplace deaths in Victoria occurred on farms last year, and that agriculture has one of the worst health and safety records of all industries, means significant investment in farmer-led initiatives which promote this cultural change is needed.
“Accidents, injury, and deaths on farm are not acceptable. For too long the Victorian agriculture sector has put this in the too hard basket – shying away from having the tough conversations. A strong safety culture requires behavioural and cultural change.
“In seeking to address these issues, the VFF has emphasised the need for on-farm health and safety initiatives that are farmer-led to ensure adoption, acceptance, relevance, and buy-in from farmers around the state. We welcome the opportunity to drive change via the safety council.
“We welcome also the government commitment to establish the Farm Skills Victoria initiative to focus on skills development and uptake in the sector, as well as $2.5 million in funding for AgTech Innovation initiatives at Longerenong College.
“While we welcome the government’s announcement, we are also encouraging them to listen be guided by the state’s farmers to ensure the measures introduced are what is needed and make a genuine difference in promoting smarter, safer farms.”