Digirock 2015-2016 Vacation Student Register Now Open

Digirock 2015-2016 Vacation Student Register Now Open

Perth based Digirock Exploration Geologists each year distribute a list of university students seeking vacation employment to their extensive list of clients.

The register for 2015-2016 is now open.

University students seeking vacation employment wishing to use this service should apply by 11th September 2015


AIG commends Digirock for their support of the next generation of Australian geoscientists.


AIG Member Advantage

AIG has established a new Member Advantage program to provide AIG members with benefits from collective buying of goods and services.

Members can now enjoy exclusive savings on accommodation, leisure experiences, airline lounge memberships, package tours, insurance services and more, through Member Advantage.

These services are free to use at any time and can be accessed by phone (1300 853 352) or via the AIG Member Advantage website.

For further information, visit: www.aig.org.au/memberadvantage

AIG Member Advantage

Are 457 Visas costing Australian geoscientists their jobs?

The release of the latest AIG Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey results sparked a number of emails and letters from members with accounts of foreign geoscientists working in Australia at a time of high under- and unemployment for geoscientists who are Australian citizens or permanent residents.

Could this be the case?

What is a 457 Visa?

What is commonly referred to as a “457 visa” is more formally known as a Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457).  These visas allow skilled workers to travel to Australia to work in their nominated occupation for their approved sponsor for up to four years.

Applicants must be sponsored by an approved business.

According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, a business can only sponsor someone for this visa if they cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work.  Applicants may be either in Australia or overseas when they lodge their visa application.

Successful applicants:

  • May work in Australia for up to four years.
  • Bring their family to work or study in Australia.
  • Travel in and out of Australia at any time and as often as they want.
  • Must be provided with the same terms and conditions as Australian workers performing the same work in the same workplace.

Sponsors must:

  • Show that they are providing 457 visa holders with equal pay and conditions of employment to Australian workers performing the same work at the same location.
  • Not make deductions from visa holders’ pay (other than tax) without their consent.
  • Only employ visa holders in their approved, skilled occupation.
  • Pay reasonable and necessary travel costs incurred by visa holders to leave Australia if requested by the visa holder, their family or the Department.
  • Not seek to recoup any costs incurred in recruitment from 457 visa holders.
  • Make sure that visa holders do not work for other employers.
  • Not pay visa holders in cash.

Labour Market Testing

Labour market testing (LMT) in the Subclass 457 visa programme commenced on 23 November 2013.  Business sponsors must provide information with any nomination about their attempts to recruit Australian workers and how they have determined on the basis of these attempts that there is no suitably qualified and experienced Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible temporary visa holder available to fill the position.

LMT does not apply where it would conflict with Australia’s international trade obligations, which include:

  • Nomination of workers who are citizens of Japan, Thailand, Chile, Korea or New Zealand.
  • The nominated worker is a current employee of a business that is an associated entity of the employer in Australia that is located in an ASEAN country, Chile, Japan, Korea or New Zealand.
  • The nominated worker is a current employee of a business or associated entity that operates in a country that is a member of the World Trade Organization and fills an “Executive or Senior Manager” role who will have substantial responsibility for the company’s operations in Australia, or will be involved in establishing an operation in Australia.

There are, however, a number of occupations that are not exempt from LMT.  Relevant occupations to exploration and mining include:

  • Engineering Managers
  • Civil or Geotechnical Engineers
  • Mining Engineers
  • Petroleum Engineers
  • Environmental Engineers

Geoscientists, geologists and geophysicists are notable omissions from this list. LMT should, however, apply for all but senior management roles in which geoscientists may be employed.

A matter of timing?

Many overseas geoscientists were sponsored to work in Australia during the “mining boom” (March 2010 to December 2012) when geoscientist unemployment fell below 5%.  Current 457 visa holders who came to Australia towards the end of the boom may have 12 to 18 months remaining on visas issued for four years at that time.

Unemployment June 2015

What’s happened since then?

If the programme is operating as intended, LMT should prevent all but Executives and Senior Managers in geoscience occupations from entering Australia under the programme.

The accounts that AIG has received suggest that this may not be the case, but how would the Department interpret a 457 visa applicant being described as a “Principal” or “Chief” geoscientist?  It’s clearly not black and white.

What could and should be done?

There have been, and in the future will be times when overseas geoscientists will be needed to work in Australia and the 457 visa programme effectively facilitates this.  There appears, however, a strong case to be made for:

  • Geoscientists (qualified, experienced geologists and geophysicists) being included on the list of occupations that are not exempt from LMT.
  • Ensuring that the skills of 457 visa applicants match the descriptions of positions for which they are sponsored.

The employment survey results appear to be widely accepted as a measure of geoscientist employment.  It’s hard to imagine a case where, with 15% unemployment and 20% under-employment that a suitably qualified and experienced resident geoscientist could not be found to fill roles for which sponsorship of a 457 visa holder is proposed, unless the roles are described as Executive or Senior Manager positions.

AIG could:

  • Write to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (Peter Dutton MP) to request that geoscientists are added to the list of occupations which are not exempt from LMT. On the face of it, this would appear to be a reasonable and moderate request.
  • Encourage members to write to the Minister with a similar request.
  • Demonstrate the need for LMT to always be required for geoscientist roles using the employment survey results.
  • Document the competencies and experience required of geoscientists to fill Executive and Senior Management roles.

What’s your view?  Do you have any suggestions for other approaches to the issue?

Join this discussion via the AIG Linkedin Group or leave a comment on the AIG web site.

Mineral Resources: from Exploration Targets to Ore Reserves

Some 58 attendees enjoyed the Mineral Resources: from Exploration Targets to Ore Reserves seminar presented by AIG’s Queensland Branch in Brisbane last week.

mineral resources to ore reserves

58 attendees enjoyed the recent Mineral Resources: from Exploration Targets to Ore Reserves seminar presented by AIG’s Queensland Branch

Some great presentations covered a wide range of issues faced by geoscientists involved in resource estimation, and, particularly, acting as a Competent Person in compliance with the JORC Code.

The seminar also provided a great networking opportunity and plenty of opportunities to discuss issues facing our profession.

The presentations from the seminar are now available for reference on the AIG web site.

ESWA Recognised by Premier’s Science Award

ESWA LogoEarth Science Western Australia were recognised last night (27 August) at the Premier’s Science Awards in Perth.

ESWA was named the Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year at the Premier’s Science Awards ceremony.


ESWA representatives receiving their award at the Premier’s Science Awards in Perth this week. L-R: Peta Libby (Vice Chair), Peter Moore (Chair), Jo Watkins (CEO), Julia Ferguson (Education Consultant), Jim Ross (Patron), Mark Thompson (Secretary)



The ESWA board expressed thanks to all of the individuals and organisations that helped to make this possible.


Congratulations for a well deserved award and recognition of ESWA’s contribution to the next generation of Australian geoscientists.

ASEG-PESA-AIG 2016: Proposals for Workshops



Expression of Interest – Close 1 December 2015

The organising committee of the ASEG-PESA-AIG 25th Geophysical Conference and Exhibition would like to invite our members and friends to participate in the workshop programme at the 2016 ASEG conference as a workshop presenter. As a workshop presenter this is a fantastic opportunity to engage with the geophysical and broader geoscience community.

If you are interested in presenting a workshop, please download the Expression of Interest form below and return to events@plevin.com.au by 1st December 2015. This is non-binding, but provides the organising committee with information about potential workshops so that we can plan facilities, how best to assist you, etc. Please fill in as much as you are able to now, we will send you a complete application in the near future.

Download Workshop Expression of Interest as Word docx

Download Workshop Expression of Interest as PDF

Visit the conference web site

6th International Archean Symposium: Perth 2020

6ias 2020The premier international symposium dedicated to Precambrian geoscience and specifically the Archean, will be held in Perth in September-October 2020.

It continues the highly successful IAS meetings presented every decade by Geoconferences.

Every decade or so, an International Archean Symposium is held to document progress in our understanding of Early Earth evolution, Archean tectonics and metallogeny, and the evolution of life. It is the only dedicated scientific forum for those working in the Archean, either in research or exploiting mineral deposits. The four-to-five day program is typically supported by field excursions and workshops.  The 6IAS Organising Committee has yet to be constituted but will no doubt arrange an exciting program of presentations, field excursions and workshops reflecting a decade?s worth of advances in our understanding of the Archean.

Industry, academic and government geoscientists with an interest in the Archean will be welcomed to our beautiful city to not only enjoy the scientific and social program, but also to visit classic geological sites and mineral deposits in Western Australia.

To receive further information as it becomes available or indicate an interest in helping with the organisation of the 6th International Archean Symposium, please email 6IAS@geoconferences.org.au including your contact details.

How are you enduring the employment downturn?

AIG is looking for members willing to be interviewed regarding how they are dealing with the current downturn in geoscientist employment.

The recent AIG Australian Geoscientist Employment survey results highlighted the protracted nature of the current downturn and revealed a sharp increase in geoscientists seeking permanent employment outside the profession.  What are geoscientists leaving the profession looking towards?  For those weathering the downturn, what are you doing to manage while seeking employment?

These are questions not asked by the survey but clearly something the Institute needs to understand.  It was also a question frequently asked by the media in response to the survey results announcement.  A Queensland industry publication is seeking unemployed geoscientists willing to share their story for a feature article on the subject.  This is something that AIG should look to  promote in other states to promote awareness of the current situation faced by unemployed and underemployed geoscientists and to capture your thoughts on what could be done to improve employment prospects.

Are you willing to share your story?  Please contact Andrew Waltho by email, leave a comment here or contribute to the discussion via the AIG Linkedin group.


No signs of improvement in Geoscientist employment

No Signs of Improvement in Latest Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey Results:

  • Lowest employment levels observed since mid-2009 (when these surveys commenced)
  • Employment in mineral exploration has crashed in the past six months
  • Combined unemployment and underemployment rate hits 35.1%

Employment prospects for professional geoscientists in Australia further deteriorated in the first six months of 2015 according to results released today from the latest Australian Geoscientist Employment survey conducted this month by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG). 

Even worse are indications in the survey data of just how severely the prolonged downturn in employment prospects for geoscientists is now starting to bite and contributing to serious erosion of Australia’s geoscience capabilities.

At the end of June 2015:

  • The unemployment rate amongst professional geoscientists in Australia was 15.2%, down marginally on the 15.5% recorded at the end of December 2015.
  • Underemployment (the proportion of self-employed geoscientists unable to secure their desired level of work) jumped to 19.9% – a 3% increase in the six months since the last survey.

Unemployment June 2015


Of the geoscientists describing themselves as being self-employed in the survey, more than 36% were unable to secure more than 10% of their desired workload, pointing to an actual unemployment rate of 22.6%, an increase of 1.2% in the six months since December 2014.

The outcome of these results is a combined unemployment and underemployment rate amongst professional geoscientists in Australia of 35.1% – the highest level recorded since this series of surveys by AIG commenced in June 2009 and well above the 31.3% recorded at the peak of the global financial crisis in September 2009.

No state is considered to have fared better than another in respect of geoscientist employment and underemployment, with combined unemployment and underemployment rates of about 30% or more across the country.

State Unemployment


The combined unemployment and underemployment rate in mineral exploration specifically was highest in South Australia at 39.3% of geoscientists employed or seeking work in that sector.  This rate was 38% in the Northern Territory,  35% in Queensland, 33% in Western Australia, 30% in NSW and 29% in Victoria.  Too few responses were received from Tasmania for valid analysis of the situation affecting that state.

Amongst unemployed and underemployed respondents:

  • 17% lost employment in the three months between 31st March and 30th June.
  • 35% reported being unemployed for 12 months or more.
  • 63% of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists saw little prospect of regaining employment within the coming 12 months.
  • The proportion of geoscientists considering leaving the profession permanently almost doubled to 4.5% – the highest level recorded in this series of surveys.

Of those in employment, 43% were confident of retaining their positions for the next 12 months.

Marked changes in areas of employment for geoscientists are evident in the survey results.

field changes



The dramatic fall in employment in mineral exploration across Australia is seen as verifying AIG’s warnings, based on previous survey results, of a looming crisis in the mineral exploration sector.  Metalliferous mining, usually a relatively stable employment area, also declined.

Apparent growth in employment in energy resource (oil, gas and coal) exploration and production is a welcome surprise considering the uncertainty and low prices affecting the sector.

AIG members responsible for compiling and interpreting the survey results expressed real concerns regarding the apparent shift in where Australian geoscientists are employed.  “The decline in mineral exploration employment is real,” according to Mr Andrew Waltho, an AIG Council member and past President of the Institute.  “What is most concerning though is that the increase in other sectors isn’t an indication of increased opportunities, but instead due to their representation being increased due to mineral exploration’s decline”.  “In effect, they may have become a relatively larger piece of a much smaller pie, which would be a really serious prospect for Australian geoscience” Mr Waltho said.

“Some 626 people, about one in 12 of Australia’s geoscientists, responded to the survey.  “Having 35% of a profession struggling to secure work over a period of several years must have an impact.” Mr Waltho said.  “This is borne out by the number of respondents indicating that they are seeking permanent work outside their chosen profession increasing every time AIG runs an instalment in this survey series.”

AIG President, Mr Wayne Splisbury, expressed profound concern for the Institute’s members and their families affected by the prolonged downturn in employment prospects.

“Geoscientists are aware of the cyclic nature of geoscientific employment which, in Australia, reflects upswings and downturns in the fate of Australia’s minerals and resource industries.  The current downturn, however, is without precedent in the memories of Australian geoscience professionals.

“What’s particularly disconcerting is that loss of employment opportunities in minerals exploration is really starting to bite, not just in terms of the level of exploration activity, but in what this means for a whole range of things.  This includes:

  • An erosion of the pipeline of projects needed to maintain the viability of Australia’s resource industries,
  • The loss of corporate memory which contributes directly to industry productivity,
  • A deterioration in our ability to innovate and develop improved exploration and mining technologies that promote productivity and growth, and improve peoples’ lives in many ways, and
  • A loss of our ability to mentor and develop the next generation of Australian geoscientists.”

Mr Spilsbury also said “Federal and State Government initiatives to promote exploration need to be given a chance to be proven to be effective in arresting the decline in exploration activity evident in Australia for the past three years.”

“We need solid, well targeted actions to improve the attractiveness of exploration investment and enable companies to use that investment productively, rather than negotiating an ever-deepening mire of red tape in relation to securing access to land for exploration in particular.”

The new financial year, for example, provides companies with their first opportunity to submit Exploration Development Incentive claims for eligible greenfields exploration.  For these schemes to be truly successful, companies need to be able to explore in the first place and that requires effective, fair and equitable access to land.  These measures deserve bipartisan support.  The mining industry plays a large role in Australia’s economy and its success plays a big role in maintaining the standard of living of all Australians.

“There are also a discussion needed on extending to self-employed geoscientists those tax provisions that specifically cater for the needs of groups that consistently face cyclical, irregular employment.”

A PDF version of this article is available here.

17th August 2015

Australian Geoscience Council Annual Report

Report from the Australian Geoscience Council

This report is based on the President’s and Chairman’s Reports
to the Annual General Meeting of the AGC on 4 June 2015

Knowing who we are

The Australian Geoscience Council has eight major Australian geoscientific societies as its Members. These organisations are considered to collectively represent most of Australia’s geoscientists, a number we believe to be around 7,000 individuals, after considering that many are members of more than one organisation. As the peak body for these individuals we have interests in representing industry, government and academic professionals in the fields of geology, geophysics, geochemistry, minerals, petroleum, hydrogeology, environmental and all other aspects of geoscience.

Our Member Organisations have particular interests, summarised here from their websites (in alphabetical order). Details are on the AGC website. We note that there is significant overlap between those organisations that focus on the geoscientists, on the geoscience and/or on both:

  • The Association of Applied Geochemists (AAG) is an international organisation founded in 1970 and specialising in the field of applied geochemistry. Its purpose is primarily to advance the science of geochemistry as it relates to exploration and the environment.
  • The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) has a Geoscience Society that supports geoscientists working in the mining industry. Including the disciplines of mining engineering, metallurgy and others, AusIMM represents 14,000 individuals working in the global minerals industry and provides leadership and opportunities for minerals industry professionals.
  • The Australian Geoscience Information Association (AGIA) is a national group made up of people and organisations working in any area of the geosciences at the professional level, and acts as a medium of communication for all those interested in geoscience information.
  • The Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) is a professional institute representing geoscientists employed in all sectors of industry, education, research and government throughout Australia.
  • The Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG) is a learned society of professional earth scientists specialising in the practical application of the principles of physics and mathematics to solve problems in a broad range of geological situations.
  • The Geological Society of Australia (GSA) was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support earth sciences in Australia.
  • The International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) is a professional association for those within disciplines related to groundwater, its occurrence, utilisation, testing and management. The Executive Presidency position of the Australian National Chapter is rotated annually through the State Branches.
  • The Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA) is a national organisation representing the interests of all professionals and practitioners in the upstream petroleum industry.

Knowing where we are going

At this time last year, the AGC was just at the inception of the process of building our Strategic Plan. Through the good work of many we now have this completed and it provides a coherent framework to guide the activities and priorities of the AGC through the coming years. This plan has been succinctly summarised in a flyer that we recommend as a tool to communicate widely with all those interested in advancing the cause of geoscience in Australia. It is attached to this report and can be accessed on the web here.

This Strategic Plan is particularly important because the AGC is in the fortunate position of currently being well-resourced through the results of the very successful International Geological Congress in Brisbane (the 34th IGC). With this however comes the obligation to proactively and responsibly use these resources to support Australian geoscience. We have been given a great opportunity to make a difference and we must make sure we take advantage of it. We felt that the most important way to start this process was to ensure we could see all of the issues and needs so that we can prioritise our efforts in a balanced and objective way.

Given that our Mission is defined in our Constitution we started with our Vision. This maps our path forward and gives us guidance at each step in making decisions. The Vision we agreed on is appropriately challenging: We will raise the profile of Geoscience to be pre-eminent in Australia and to be recognised as one of the great fields of general science with Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

To maintain our focus on this Vision we have developed three Strategic Pillars: Geoscience Education, Geoscience Advocacy and Geoscience Sustainability. We consider these almost self-explanatory, the third pillar focusing on actions that enable us to ensure the first two continue to be developed long into the future. For each of the Strategic Pillars we have defined Strategies and within each of the Strategies we have defined Targets. Full details of our Strategic Plan are on our Website at this link.

The most important challenge now is to effectively implement our Strategic Plan. We need to translate the aspirations in the plan into concrete actions and outcomes. This is being done through the development of a Business Plan and Budget that guides us for the current year

We also need to recognise that implementation of this plan cannot rest solely on the shoulders of our hard-working Executive. To this end, we have initiated committees to drive the plan forward in our key strategic areas such as Geoscience Education and Geoscience Advocacy. These committees will play an increasingly important role. We have also recognised the need for an Administration Officer to support the implementation process, and this is now in place.

An interesting outcome of our Strategic Plan is that the AGC has been invited to participate in the Australian Academy of Science subcommittee that is developing a 10 year plan for geoscience in Australia. The last such decadal plan was extremely successful in helping provide coordinated funding for government, academia and organisations such as Geoscience Australia, the CSIRO, university departments and Centres of Excellence. We have already been asked to specifically help with the Education aspects of the new plan, which fits well with our first Strategic Pillar of Geoscience Education.

Our Achievements

During the past 12 months our focus has been on the following strategies:

  • In Geoscience Education we have focused on supporting the excellent online publication GeoEdLink which was issued in September and December 2014 and April this year.
  • In Geoscience Advocacy we have focused on supporting the UNCOVER initiative. We made this a major issue in a recent mission to Canberra, at the Science Meets Parliament event that Bill Shaw attended with Brad Pillans. We also see this as a focus for Science and Technology Australia (STA) where we have emphasised that this is an issue of singular economic importance to all Australians.
  • In Geoscience Sustainability we have found common ground amongst our Member Organisations, and clarified the role that the AGC can play for them and that they must play for us if we are all to achieve our Vision.
  • We would also like to report the successful completion of negotiations with the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) to set up a travel fund for young geoscientists. This fund will be administered jointly by the AGC and AAS and will represent a long term positive legacy arising from the 34th IGC.

Our Concerns

We would be remiss not to mention that the collapse of the mining boom and commodity prices has put many of our geoscience colleagues under pressure. This is one of the hardest times we have seen in the boom and bust cycle, as it affects not just one or two commodities but all of the mining and the hydrocarbon industries.

We must all ensure at every opportunity that we argue for a rational long-term approach to supporting the people and the technologies that enable us to do good geoscience, irrespective of the drivers behind economic rationalism. Cutting costs should not mean cutting capabilities. Our industries continue to fail to learn this lesson.


We would like to thank our Secretary Dr Ron Hackney and our Treasurer Mrs Miriam Way, who is assisted by Mr Brad Clements of the AusIMM. These are important roles that take up a lot of voluntary time.

We also thank the representatives of our Member Organisations who have provided constant support, encouragement and clarity in guiding the AGC towards making a difference for geoscience in Australia. We consider that we now have a strong team that understands and whole-heartedly supports what we are all trying to achieve.

Bill Shaw
President, Australian Geoscience Council

Jon Hronsky
Chairman, Australian Geoscience Council