International industry fuels local employment in the Territory
At ConocoPhillips' Barossa project near Darwin, everyone is a resident. That's not a coincidence according to Chris Wilson, President ConocoPhillips Australia West.
In his speech to Petroleum Club’s this month, Wilson talked about the strategic importance of the Northern Territory to their operations and how those projects had gone beyond the money.
While the company is investing $70 Million in local businesses in Darwin, ConocoPhillips’ collaboration with the community is more than transactional as it promotes a positive image of the oil and gas industry in the Territory.
“We have a fully residential workforce up in Darwin without anyone flying-in and flying-out.”
This achievement has not merely come from nothing. Instead of looking for people with the appropriate skills outside of the NT, ConocoPhillips looked for workers in their community and shared the skills with them through their Darwin Operation Centre Training Academy (DOCTA) program. The program took 80 Darwin residents with trade backgrounds and trained them in LNG plant operations to take on their Barossa Project.
The LNG industry, across Australia, directly employs around 32,000 people with another estimated 17,000 jobs through businesses support the industry.
“[The DOCTA] program has been a real success. It has allowed us to really reduce attrition in our team up there … and we have a really world-class workforce who live in Darwin and want to reside there.”
Another benefit is that being close to home also promotes better health amongst within the workforce.
In 2015, a study by Edith Cowan University showed that the rates of depression, anxiety, and stress found in FIFO workers were more than twice the amount found in the general population. In 2017, the Queensland Government banned mines from having 100 per cent of their employees working on a FIFO basis.
Two short weeks after Wilson’s speech, Bill Johnston, WA’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum announced the release of the second draft of the FIFO Code of Practice to the public for comment in an attempt to bridge this gap.
The DOCTA programme is not the first time that ConocoPhillips has engaged with the NT community: Darwin LNG has supported the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project since 2006.
The project combines the traditional knowledge of the Australian Indigenous people with technology to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by burning off during the early dry season. This prevents larger bushfires from burning through the area later in the year, causing more damage and releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere. Every year, this project reduces emissions in the area by up to 40 per cent due to this project. Again, WALFA is primarily run by those local to the area.
“In addition to carbon abatement it provides many other benefits such as indigenous employment, biodiversity protection, cultural and heritage renewal,” explained Wilson, later continuing with, “I think 70 savanna burning programs now are registered across Australia and they all, essentially, replicate the WALFA program.”
“You can hopefully see why we think it’s a good way to play our role in helping to manage our carbon impact.”