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Increasing Australian participation and representation in the resources sector. 

The government is committed to supporting Australians to take-up the increasing number of highly paid jobs in the resources sector. The sector needs workers to operate, thrive and support the economy. At the same time, getting Australians into jobs provides economic stability and resilience for individuals and communities. Where this is not possible, skilled migration ensures that the sector has the expertise necessary to continue operating.

With an increasing number of opportunities on offer, and a focus on training and education improvements, the government is pursuing a range of initiatives to boost participation by Australians. All Australians, whether female, Indigenous, regional or city based, can access support, training or education to start a career in resources. 

51% of resources employees reside in non-metro areas. 3.7% of people employed in the resources industry are aboriginal and torres strait islander peoples. Employees in the sector have the highest average weekly earnings in Australia of $2697.50 per week.

Jobs for Australians

Approximately half of workers in the resources sector are based in metropolitan areas, and the other half in rural and regional areas of Australia. The resources sector offers highly paid, rewarding and exciting opportunities across Australia with an average wage that is 57% higher than other industries. 

The government is working with industry, education and state and territory governments to continue to maximise opportunities for all Australians in the resources sector. As a significant employer of regional Australians, the resources sector and the METS sector provide substantial support to communities through the provision of skill development and training, thereby opening up opportunities for long-term employment. This is why the government will support the Minerals Council of Australia’s efforts in working with the industry to promote Australian employment and local procurement. 

Jobs for the regions

It is essential that regional communities benefit from the development of local resources projects in the long-term. Resources development supports regional communities through procurement from local businesses, supply chains and investments in local infrastructure. These jobs are the lifeblood of many communities and underpin the resilience of regional economies.

The government is partnering with BHP to create opportunities for those in regional areas through the Future of Work Partnership. The program will provide opportunities for up to 1000 people over the next five years in regional areas to receive skills and training to help support healthy, diverse local economies. Through the BHP partnership, Australians will become more job-ready by gaining qualifications through short courses, or participating in workplace integrated learning through an Advanced Apprenticeship.

The government is working to maximise economic diversification and resilience for the regions through regional deals and opening new basins. Regional deals bring together all levels of government around a clear set of objectives.

For example, the Barkly Regional Deal between the Australian Government, the Northern Territory Government and the Barkly Regional Council includes the development of a Regional Workforce Plan to identify and align training and employment opportunities and maximise local and Indigenous employment. The government is also developing five new strategic basin plans, starting with the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory, and the Galilee and North Bowen basin in central Queensland. These plans will consider how to maximise the benefits to local communities, including through employment, procurement and increased economic activity in the regions.

Additionally, the next phase of economic development under the Australian Government’s Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia will drive economic growth in northern communities through job creation and support for initiatives that encourage workforce participation. 

Fly-in fly-out

Where local workers are not available, Fly-In Fly-Out (FIFO) job opportunities provide ways for workers across Australia to access well-paid, rewarding jobs through flexible working arrangements. FIFO also provides ways for people to try a new job without committing to immediate relocation. FIFO jobs provide industry with options to fill short-term gaps in peak periods.

The government is committed to ensuring that positive FIFO work practices exist to support workers, while supporting local communities. In the long-term, an overreliance on FIFO employees can have negative impacts on local communities when not managed properly. Different jurisdictions are taking steps to improve FIFO practices, for example Queensland prohibits a 100% FIFO workforce for large mining projects.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how resources companies use FIFO. State and international border closures have led to policies that encourage FIFO workers to relocate. Western Australia announced new incentives to entice FIFO workers to relocate permanently during the pandemic, including access to the state government’s $20,000 Building Bonus grant.

Skilled migration as a stop-gap

When Australian workers are not available, or not suitably skilled, migration provides a mechanism to meet industry needs, fill gaps, and deliver economic value. Skilled migrants can also help to grow Australian expertise and skillsets. The government, through the National Skills Commission, maintain lists of skilled occupations that are in demand and eligible for skilled migration. These lists are reviewed regularly based on labour market analysis as well as industry and stakeholder consultation. With the impacts of COVID-19 on migration and international travel, the government has prioritised certain occupations relevant to the resources sector which are important for the recovery of the Australian economy.

Supporting women in resources

Women represent just 16.9% of the resources workforce. This underrepresentation means that industry is losing out on a large part of the workforce. Increasing female participation improves Australia’s productivity and prosperity; increasing the bottom line of businesses and boosting Australia’s GDP. The sector must do better to attract female workers to address skill shortages and reverse declining enrolments.

The government is working to remove barriers, break down gender stereotypes and create an inclusive workforce by working with industry to attract women into the resources sector, particularly in STEM fields, for example through the Women in STEM Ambassador program and awareness campaigns. 

The government has committed $1.5 million to support ‘Future You’, a national digital awareness raising initiative from 2019–2022. Led by the Women in STEM Ambassador, the initiative aims to break down gender stereotypes and increase awareness of the kinds of careers STEM skills can lead to. The campaign includes a range of characters with interactive games that teach about different occupations and STEM skills, including the opportunities that the resources sector offers.

The sector runs a range of programs to support women to pursue careers and leadership roles in the sector. 

For example: 

  • The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s Women in Mining project works to empower women in the industry and encourage advancement. The program is aimed at women working in the resources sector at any experience level. It organises events, professional development and mentoring for women in the resources sector.
  • BHP set a goal to achieve gender balance by 2025. In 2016, BHP reflected the national average with women comprising 17.6%. By 2019, this figure improved to almost 25%, adding over 2000 women to its workforce. Ensuring women remain in the workforce has led to a reassessment of workplace culture and more consistent application of inclusive and appropriate work practices across the organisation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The government is working to increase career and training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly in regional and remote areas. The resources sector is a strong employer of Indigenous Australians, comprising 3.7% of the current workforce. This is above the national average of 1.7%, with the Indigenous population making up roughly 3% of Australia’s population.

The government works with industry to improve career opportunities for Indigenous Australians through Commonwealth and jurisdictional investment. The Indigenous Advancement Strategy provides support for Indigenous Australians to address work readiness, learn new skills and provide mentoring to support people commencing employment. Programs span across all of Australia, including regional, rural and remote areas, and support individuals into a range of industries, including the resources sector. Since the commencement of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy in 2014, over 52,000 Indigenous Australians have received support to commence employment, undertake cadetships or school-based traineeships.

The government is working with industry to increase participation of Indigenous Australians in STEM education. The $30 million Indigenous STEM Education Project is a six-year project funded by the BHP Foundation and implemented by CSIRO. The project is working with primary, secondary and tertiary students in remote, regional and metropolitan areas, including mining-rich areas like the Western Goldfields to engage students in STEM studies and support Indigenous students to pursue university studies. Since 2015, over 22,116 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, 233 schools, 2,141 teachers and assistant teachers and 23 remote communities have been engaged in the program.