Tocal Faculty welcomed first feminine college students 50 years in the past, shifting the ag world ahead ‘in leaps and bounds’


Margo Duncan owes nearly all the things to an enormous, fertile patch of Wonnarua nation.

“Fifty years in the past, I would not have thought that agriculture can be something like it’s right this moment,” she stated.

“I do know once I was right here as a scholar, there was solely a handful of us in comparison with the boys that have been right here.

“It was one thing that was new and making an attempt to interrupt via that barrier was tough.”

Mrs Duncan was one of many first girls to be permitted to check at Tocal Agricultural Faculty within the NSW Hunter Valley after it started accepting girls in 1972.

Tocal Faculty and Homestead has been a key agricultural training web site for many years.(ABC Newcastle: Bridget Murphy)

Earlier than that it was a male-only Presbyterian-run school.

“However as soon as we did break via, issues actually improved,” she stated.

Since then Mrs Duncan has established and run her personal profitable stud and household farm close by, which is changing into an heirloom of types.

“I’ve obtained 4 granddaughters they usually’re all within the farm, all of them dwell on the farm.

“I believe girls in agriculture has been an actual plus for the business, and it will maintain being a plus for the business.

“In 50 years’ time, I believe it is going to be vastly totally different once more.”

A group of women stand together on the steps of Tocal College and smile at the camera
Lecturer Justine Baird and a number of the girls of Tocal’s 2022 cohort.(ABC Newcastle: Bridget Murphy)

From no telephones to drones

Tocal is the Wonnarua phrase for lots, a becoming title for a school that rolls over 2,200 hectares of prime farming land on the outskirts of Paterson, north-west of Newcastle.

Fifty years after her grandmother Margo Duncan, Emilia Lieb is finding out in the identical lecture rooms, on the identical paddocks and strolling the identical halls.

Two women, a grandmother and granddaughter stand together and smile at the camera, standing in front of a farm
Margo Duncan graduated in 1974 and her granddaughter, Emilia, is a present scholar.(ABC Newcastle: Bridget Murphy)

Mrs Duncan is thrilled Emilia is pursuing ag and that she’s a bit extra clued up on all the brand new tech.

“They perceive it actually very well. again then, we did not have cellphones, and now it is simply a part of the routine that we take a cell phone with us, extra as a security factor,” she stated.

“Every little thing has improved out of sight, you recognize, your equipment, simply the way you method issues. Know-how has been completely enormous.”

Two young students smile at the camera, student on the left is holding an ipad, student on the right is holding a drone.
Astynn Kearney and Eden Barnett find out about drone expertise as a part of their programs.(ABC Newcastle: Bridget Murphy)

Drones are a game-changer on the farm and a key a part of Astynn Kearney and Eden Barnett’s classes.

“The drone goes up with its multi-spectral digital camera and might take footage of our crops so we are able to higher handle them for fertiliser charges and chemical sprays,” Ms Barnett stated.

“[Learning tech like this] means we are able to save money and time and control how our crops are doing actually simply.”

Two-thirds of the full-time college students at Tocal this 12 months are girls, and 94 per cent of the devoted horse course are feminine.

Meg Williams from Sydney is a type of within the saddle.

“I am not solely simply studying about horses, I’ve gotten to find out about ag abilities too,” she stated.

“I’ve learnt how one can put a fence up, how one can drive a tractor, drive motorbikes … which is absolutely good contemplating I am not from a property.”

Altering faces

The variety of Australians working within the agricultural sector has dropped sharply over the previous 5 many years.

A picture frame sits on a table, with a black and white image of seven young women from the 1970s at Tocal College
These girls have been the primary feminine college students of Tocal Faculty in 1972.(ABC Newcastle: Bridget Murphy)

The 1971 census, taken the 12 months earlier than feminine college students began at Tocal, confirmed greater than 400,000 folks have been employed in farming and ag.

The latest census exhibits {that a} little over 200,000 folks work within the sector, down from 228,000 in 2016.

Nevertheless, the ag house has by no means been extra various and the variety of girls has doubled since 1971, rising to a 30 per cent share of the business.

For former scholar and head of alumni Danielle Fordham says it is thrilling to see so many ladies changing into a part of the school’s historical past.

“We see girls coming from totally different backgrounds and it is actually simply that zeal for agriculture that is pushed them to the school and pushed them via instances of challenges.”

Danielle Fordham, Alumni Coordinator at Tocal
Danielle Fordham is a former Tocal scholar and now works on the school.(ABC Newcastle: Bridget Murphy)

Mrs Duncan says she is thrilled to observe her 4 granddaughters work within the business.

“It is a very fascinating time I believe to be in agriculture; we’re shifting ahead in leaps and bounds … and to be round what is going on is simply fabulous.”

For Ms Lieb, she is aware of precisely what she needs to do.

“[Work] on the household farm. Hold it operating, do not let it down.”



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