The Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges (QATC) commenced operations on 1 July 2014, as a statutory authority responsible to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries through the establishment of a corporation Governing Board.
The organisation was formerly known as the Australian Agricultural College Corporation (AACC) that commenced operations on 1 July 2005 as a result of an amalgamation of four former Queensland Agricultural Colleges:
- Dalby Agricultural College
- Longreach Pastoral College
- Emerald Agricultural College (formerly Emerald Pastoral College), and
- Australian College of Tropical Agriculture (whose predecessors included the Burdekin Agricultural College, Lower Burdekin Rural Education Centre, and Burdekin Rural Education Centre)
Longreach Pastoral College was founded in 1967 in direct response to the needs of the agricultural industry for staff skilled in semi-arid beef and wool production. Since that time, it has continued to be the first choice in Australian outback practical training, delivering industry endorsed and recognised training in wool and beef production, horse breeding, shearing and wool handling.
Initially open only to male students, the College was the first of its kind in Queensland, attracting students from across Australia who came seeking the practical skills necessary to a career in agriculture. The courses combined theory and practical learning, incorporating English, mathematics and science skills to complement the agricultural skills being taught.
In 1979, the College began admitting female students, with a dedicated nurse who was employed to supervise female students in a specially built dorm, which still stands.
Over the years, the College expanded its facilities to include a registered slaughter house, an irrigation farm, machinery and welding sheds, extensive equine facilities, barbecue and pool area, construction workshop, and upgrades to existing infrastructure. The majority of sheds at the College have been built by former students under supervision of qualified instructors.
These days the College continues its close association with industry, with the majority of graduates finding employment in the agricultural and rural sectors within a few months of graduating.
Classroom learning is assisted by extensive practical training facilities including shearing sheds, wool room, undercover and outdoor horse arenas, stock yards and machinery and vehicle maintenance areas.
The College is home to the El Pascol stud prefix, which incorporates Santa Gertrudis cattle, Australian Stock Horses and Poll Merino sheep. All of this combines to ensure students graduate with the best chance of success in their chosen fields.
Emerald Agricultural College officially opened its doors in 1968 under the chairmanship of Brian Hughes. Originally named Emerald Pastoral College, it was the second rural training school to open in Queensland after Longreach Pastoral College.
In the early years, training at the College concentrated on beef cattle production, but as the township of Emerald developed irrigation systems from the Fairburn Dam, Emerald Pastoral College added irrigation and cotton and cropping training to its repertoire.
The new courses caused a name change at the College, with it becoming the Emerald Pastoral and Agricultural College before transitioning to the Emerald Agricultural College in 1971 – a name it still holds today.
In 1991 the College made the decision to admit girls into its programs, and has seen a gradual shift in student ratios to a female-dominated enrolment in recent years.
Over the years an equine specialty has been added to the programs on offer, with other programs such as the Pathways to Agricultural Careers and Education (PACE) developed to ensure the College stays on par with industry.