Unearthing local talent in Alice Springs

07 September 2017

A trainee conducting soil sampling at the laboratory at the Centre for Appropriate Technology's facilities in Alice Springs.

A trainee conducting soil sampling
at the laboratory at the Centre for
Appropriate Technology's facilities
in Alice Springs.

Ten new laboratory-based roles designed to upskill Alice Springs job seekers have been created by Geoscience Australia in partnership with local Aboriginal not-for-profit company, the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT Ltd).

Geoscience Australia's Chief Executive Officer Dr James Johnson said the establishment of a laboratory in Alice Springs utilising CfAT Ltd facilities as part of the four-year $100.5 million Exploring for the Future programme had enabled Geoscience Australia to work with CfAT Ltd to provide learning and development opportunities, in particular for local Aboriginal job seekers.

"A lot of people think you need a university degree before you can step into a lab. Partnering with CfAT Ltd has given us the opportunity to engage with Alice Springs job seekers, many of whom have probably never considered a role in science and technology before," Dr Johnson said.

Geoscience Australia signed a six month contract with CfAT Ltd, which created 10 new 'identified' roles for Aboriginal workers between April and September this year.

The partnership involves CfAT Ltd overseeing the recruitment and personnel management of local trainees, including some currently serving terms at a local correctional facility, while Geoscience Australia leads the training.

In order to support renewed investment in northern Australia, the resource potential of under-explored areas needs to be better understood. Exploring for the Future seeks to do that.

"We currently have two groups of trainees learning how to carry out soil sample processing to standards that are expected on commercial projects.

"The CfAT Ltd trainees have processed 1340 soil samples from an area between Tennant Creek, Mount Isa and the Gulf of Carpentaria to produce 16700 different sub-samples that will be analysed in laboratories around Australia.

"These samples will help us to map out the resource potential of northern Australia, and inform future exploration and planning decisions made by government, industry and communities.

"Exploring for the Future is an Australian Government programme dedicated to boosting northern Australia's attractiveness as a destination for investment in resource exploration, and improving our knowledge of its groundwater resources. Partnering with CfAT Ltd has given us the opportunity not only to discover new resources from the ground, but in people too."

Dr Johnson said that CfAT was an ideal partner because they already had the infrastructure and processes in place needed to implement the project.

"Although our contract with CfAT is only for six months, my hope is that Geoscience Australia will leave behind a group of trainees who will be able to apply their new knowledge and skills into the future."

"Working in the Alice Springs lab has also been a rewarding experience for Geoscience Australia employees. They bring back to Canberra valuable insights about local Aboriginal culture and issues that will help inform our future projects," Dr Johnson said.

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