AIG PRESIDENT’S REPORT 2021
- 2021 marks AIG’s 40th anniversary. The Australian institute of Geoscientists was first registered as a company limited by guarantee in October 1981.
- Challenging year in the face of ongoing COVID-19-related restrictions affecting face to face meetings, seminars and conferences. These restrictions have eased in the second half of the year, allowing a resumption of face-to-face meetings, in the form of after work talks and seminars in most states
- AIG Membership grew in 2020-2021 to 3173 members, including 103 students, a net increase of 250 members. Overseas members are now the second largest membership category geographically, eclipsing Queensland.
- New education requirements for membership were introduced to distinguish students completing geoscience studies, as distinct from more generalised Earth science degrees now being offered by some Australian universities. Students completing the latter courses will be encouraged to take up Associate Membership and encouraged to complete additional education through further studies at universities, or completing short courses offered by universities and other accredited providers.
- AIG joined the Australian Council of Professions – a peak body representing more than 80,000 professionals in a range of disciplines across Australia. The Council is critically focussed on professional ethics and education, with a particular focus on micro-credentials, which are becoming increasingly accepted by a range of industries as a viable alternative to formal university qualifications.
- A review of AIG’s governance was completed. The results of this review are designed to help AIG manage growth in membership numbers, increased diversity in fields of practice and demands on volunteers at both board and State Branch committee level.
- Our Institute retained a strong financial position, despite reduced revenue from seminars and conferences and legal costs associated with a complex Ethics and Standards action. Details are provided by the Financial Report prepared for this meeting.
- A major review of the JORC Code was initiated. This update, the first since 2012, is expected to deliver major changes to the Code and recognition of Competent Persons and is being watched closely by ASIC and ASX. An update of the VALMIN Code will commence when the JORC Code update is completed.
- An on-line JORC Code training course developed by DeRisk Geomining for AIG was successfully delivered throughout the year, to very positive feedback from course participants. The course will continue to be adapted in response to participant feedback and evolution of the JORC Code so that it remains an informative and valued professional development opportunity fo anyone involved in preparing and interpreting public statements of exploration results, mineral resources and ore reserves.
- AIG State Branches responded to the challenges created by COVID-19 by moving talks and seminars on-line. This enabled overseas members to participate in meetings for the first time and will establish a model for future meetings.
- AEGC 2021 was rescheduled to September 2021. AIG, ASEG and PESA have committed to the conference going forward as a face-to-face event at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Southbank.
- A volume commemorating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Mount Fubian (Ok Tedi) copper-gold deposit in Papua New Guinea was published.
- The digital publication of AIG News continued to attract strong member and advertiser support.
- An updated AIG website was launched. Improvements continue, with a focus on improved search, integration of the Member Portal and delivery of member-exclusive content.
- Education continued as a key area of focus for the Institute, at both high school and university level. Support continued for groups providing in-service professional development opportunities for science teachers in geoscience to help ensure students receive some exposure to geology as a subject. At university level, the quality and content of geoscience related teaching is a key concern, as is improving the number of students attracted to Earth Science degrees. Anecdotal evidence suggests that falling enrolments are creating pressures on tertiary geology courses and limiting the availability of suitably educated and qualified graduates required by Australian industry, government and research institutions. This situation is a global issue and a looming barrier to ensuring the sustainability and public perception of resource industries
- AIG’s highly successful student bursary program continued. This program has a critical role in supporting and encouraging talented students pursuing both undergraduate and post- graduate geoscience studies at Australian universities.
- Remarkably few complaints were received regarding members’ practice during 2020-2021. One complaint, referred to the Ethics and Standards Committee last year, resulted in the member involved being cleared of any misconduct. The serious nature of allegations made against the member and the complaint centring on M&A activity involving an ASX listed company required external legal assistance to ensure an appropriate and defensible conclusion was reached. A complaint referred to the Ethics and Standards Committee this year resulted in a similar outcome. Both complaints were VALMIN related. The nature of these complaints highlights the serious matters that AIG can become involved with in protecting member’s professional interests and the need for the Institute to maintain resources needed to secure specialist, external assistance when needed.
- AIG’s membership of the Australian Council of Professionals now provides an ability to co-opt a member of another council member society, experienced in professional ethics, to participate in Ethics and Standards investigations, to help ensure that the investigation remains focussed on core issues rather than being diverted by technical considerations, which can happen easily given the backgrounds of members who participate in the committee’s work.
- The low level of complaints being received by AIG and AusIMM is being questioned by ASIC, who are not convinced that the standard of JORC (and VALMIN) compliance is as high as this would imply. Members are reminded of their obligation to report potential instances of non- compliance with AIG’s Code of Ethics, and the JORC and VALMIN Codes with which members are also required to comply. AIG has commenced work to regularly review ASX announcements by members acting as Competent Persons in compliance with the JORC Code, both to monitor compliance and identify areas where added education and training could be of benefit.
- Visible and transparent maintenance and continuous improvement of professional standards is an essential element in members being able to continue to enjoy reciprocal recognition of competency and reporting rights in other countries using CRIRSCO family reporting codes.
- A new group has been formed to compare professional standards with which professional geoscientists are required to comply in different countries. Kaylene Camuti, an AIG past president and Chair of AIG’s education committee, has been elected as the initial Chair of this group. The group is a real example of outreach and building relationships with kindred bodies internationally and is quietly but surely delivering real benefits to members.
Four areas stand out:
- Attracting talented students to geoscience studies and careers. Exploration and mining, in particular, are seen as “old-world” industries by many, but even limited, first-hand experience shows that this is not the case.
- Continuing to build public trust in geoscience professionals. The latest JORC Code update is part of this process, but the issue is not confined to exploration and mining. Public promotion of the role of geoscience in other aspects of daily life needs to be a priority for industry, government, educational institutions and professional bodies alike.
- Inclusion and diversity must remain a priority. We need to demonstrate the opportunities in all aspects of Australian geoscience for women and professionals from diverse backgrounds seeking to further their careers in Australia. Geoscience in Australia remains a male- dominated, Caucasian, able-bodied profession. A number of companies and government agencies have implemented measures designed to promote diversity in recent years but, in many cases, perceive the issue as one for which there is a short-term solution. This clearly isn’t the case, and we need to be careful that measures being pursued do have adverse, long- term consequences.
- AIG itself needs to continue to evolve, in order to effectively meet member needs, and continue to deliver value of membership. The board has commenced serious work in this area that will begin to deliver results during the coming year which are intended to improve AIG’s ability to be a strong, active, agile and member-focussed institute.
I must conclude by acknowledging the valued support provided by members of the AIG Board, State Branches and Working Committees during the past year. State Branches, in particular, have faced highly challenging conditions in fulfilling their important delivery of front-line benefits of membership provided by conferences, seminars and talks to members. Considerable work, not immediately visible to many members, is involved in the work performed by these volunteers.
Special thanks are also extended to Lynn Vigar, AIG’s Executive Officer for her work in the
background helps to ensure the smooth running of the Institute.
The AIG Board wishes to note the retirement of Jocelyn Thomson, the Western Australia Branch events and secretariat after more than 36 years with AIG. Jocelyn managed the AIG office in Perth initially, and moved on to supporting the Western Australia branch committee with events organisation and back office support when the institute moved to an outsourced secretariat. A function to celebrate Jocelyn’s milestone is being planned in Perth in coming weeks. We wish Jocelyn well in her retirement and offer sincere appreciation and thanks for her work and support over many years
The election of Directors conducted on-line between 20 April and 10 May 2021 saw 700 of 2021 eligible members participate.
The following candidates were successful in seeking AIG Board positions for the next two years:
- Leah Moore *
- Dale Sims *
- Andrew Waltho *
- Doug Menzies
- Josh Leigh *
- Rod Carlson *
- Rod Carlson *
* Existing director, re-elected
Congratulations to the successful candidates