Dookie camp gives rural students a taste of agricultural study

May 17 / 193

Students check out shearing at Dookie camp.
Students check out shearing at Dookie camp.

Over 30 Year 9 students from Shepparton’s Moroopna Secondary College attended a University of Melbourne-funded camp at Dookie campus last month to explore agricultural science and experience learning in a university environment.

The camp gave the students an insight into the varied opportunities available in the agricultural sector, a major employer in the Shepparton region.

Dookie is the University’s 2 440 hectare agricultural campus in the Goulburn Valley, administered by the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences. It has provided on-farm training and research opportunities for University of Melbourne students since 1910.

Over three days students attended lectures and classes on sheep handling and recognising breeds, learned how animal and humans use their senses, explored the campus’ robotic dairy and the biology of milk, and hiked up Mount Major to examine different soil types and learn how these influence plant growth.

Karen Edwards, Program Coordinator at the University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus, said staff try to provide fun hands-on learning activities to encourage students to consider scientific job opportunities in the agricultural sector.

“The camp also provides an opportunity for the students to experience a university environment," Ms Edwards says. "Many of the students had not experienced life away from home so it’s a good opportunity for them to start thinking this may be something they can do in their future.”

Around 40 students study the University’s Diploma in General Studies pathway qualification at Dookie campus each year and around 50 Bachelor of Agriculture students will study full time at the campus in Semester 2. Hundreds more travel there for breadth subjects in wine and brewing, and field training in animal handling, sustainability and development each year.

Director, Students and Equity Elizabeth Capp said the University was pleased to approve a Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program-funded Equity Innovation Grant to help fund the students’ experience.

“This initiative aligns strongly with the University’s commitments to the Goulburn Valley; to growth in agricultural education; and to supporting school retention, building aspiration and enabling access to tertiary study amongst students who might not otherwise consider these pathways,” she said. 

“We congratulate our colleagues at Dookie on delivery of a terrific program this year.”

Ms Edwards said she saw the camp as a long-term investment in the students’ future.

“I hope they continue to have experiences in life that they can relate back to the Dookie experience and a story starts to build that a university degree is something they can do,” she said.

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