Queensland Government builds social impact expertise with CSRM researchers

6 December 2023
CSRM facilitators with staff from the OCG.

Government regulators responsible for some of Queensland’s largest projects will develop their Social Impact Assessment (SIA) expertise through a new partnership with the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI).  

As part of the two-year partnership, researchers from SMI’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) are leading a program to build SIA understanding and capability within the Queensland Government’s Office of the Coordinator-General (OCG).

The OCG promotes responsible economic development by planning, delivering, and coordinating large-scale infrastructure projects and managing their impacts and driving community liveability outcomes.

A two-day workshop in early November launched the Program, and it will continue through the regular delivery of podcasts, seminars and presentations that draw attention to current issues, challenges and trends that relate to SIAs.

CSRM Principal Research Fellow Associate Professor Nick Bainton said the partnership will build a strong understanding of SIA fundamentals and then consistently foster a deeper understanding through more nuanced engagement. 

“Staff at the Office of the Coordinator-General were enthusiastic to learn more about SIAs and how they could improve development outcomes in Queensland and beyond,” Associate Professor Bainton said.

“The workshop in November was a great first step towards that – CSRM researchers with great practical and theoretical SIA experience designed a really compelling program.

“It included an introduction to core concepts and the ‘big picture’ fundamentals, issues around commissioning and scoping SIAs, what meaningful community engagement actually involves, how SIAs can support mine closure planning, and more.

“It was important to examine SIAs in general, but many of our case studies and activities focused on the mining industry, which reflects both CSRM’s expertise and the development priorities for Queensland towards a decarbonised economy.

“Another important focus was on a ‘just transition’ in Queensland, the challenges and opportunities associated with it, and how SIAs can help achieve it. 

“However, our November workshop was just the start, and the next stage will continually challenge and strengthen the OCG team’s understanding of SIAs through regular, bespoke content on more advanced topics. We are looking forward to seeing how the OCG receives it.”

OCG Director Karen Oakley said that developing the expertise of SIAs helps the OCG to implement its legislative responsibilities for SIA under the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017, and also provides a practical tool for driving beneficial community outcomes for many new economy projects across Queensland regions. 

CSRM Senior Research Fellow Dr Vigya Sharma facilitating a session on Day 2 of the workshop. 

OCG Project Officer Lucy Hammonds reflected on the workshop by saying: “The collaboration with CSRM has provided us a unique opportunity to bring together skills from throughout our department and SMI, enabling us to develop a deeper understanding of the complexity that is Social Impact Assessment.”

“I found it particularly valuable as it was the perfect level for my knowledge.

“Having joined the department this year, the training was the perfect mix of reinforcing my understanding and developing my practice in the field and an investment in my future career.”

CSRM Director Professor Deanna Kemp said the partnership demonstrated why CSRM is uniquely positioned to help governments develop SIA expertise.

“CSRM has become a leading knowledge hub on understanding and assessing the complex social impacts of mining,” Professor Kemp said.

“Our researchers are able to share their expertise with governments, communities and industry.  

“This sort of engagement, whether it is through long-term partnerships or workshops, is mutually beneficial, because it involves two-way knowledge sharing with the people often responsible for overseeing or implementing SIAs.”