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Creating special interest groups within an association

3 min read

Who is Engineers Australia?

Engineers Australia is the largest professional body for engineers in Australia. It is a national forum for the advancement of engineering and the professional development of engineers.

How big is your member base currently?

Engineers Australia has 99,000 members Australia-wide, which are categorised into state divisions. The Queensland division has approximately 18,000 members across a number of engineering special interest groups.

How can people become a member of the new special interest group and what is its speciality?

To be a member of the oil and gas group people have to become a member of Engineers Australia, which involves paying an annual fee. They can then join the oil and gas special interest group for free.

The oil and gas group will develop, promote and support the personal and professional development of engineers in the oil and gas industry. Members of the group can attend technical presentations, social networking sessions, speaker nights, and share lessons learned and success stories of their projects.

Members of Engineers Australia can be members of any of the special interest groups. There are 47 special interest groups in the Queensland division, from structural, mechanical, chemical and college to Young Engineers and Women in Engineering.

What benefits do members receive?

Members of the oil and gas group can come along to monthly events at a subsidised rate. For example, our launch event was $10 for members and $30 for non-members.

Members of the oil and gas group also get the chance to network with their counterparts in the industry and attend technical forums that are specific to the oil and gas industry. Normally, technical forums are not offered by associations.

We allow people to log the hours they spend attending our forums to go towards their Continuing Professional Development for Charter Status and ultimately to become a Registered Professional Engineer in Queensland (RPEQ).

Why did you decide to establish the oil and gas special interest group?

There are a lot of other associations in the oil and gas industry but not all of them can offer the same services that our group can. There are industry bodies that offer conferences and exhibitions but they attract corporate members (not individual members) and they are not a professional body.

Engineers Australia is the only organisation recognised by State and Federal Government as a professional body for engineering in Australia. Engineers Australia is also one of three professional bodies appointed by the Board of Professional Engineering in Queensland for the assessment of engineers for registration, so those who want to become a RPEQ need to get Charter Status from Engineers Australia first. Engineers Australia is also the only organisation recognised by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for the assessment of migrant engineers.

What is the structure of your special interest group?

The oil and gas group is classified as a special interest group within the Queensland division of Engineers Australia. There will be an oil and gas group in each state consisting of a committee of ten people, including a Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer and Secretary who will meet once a month to organise events.

What is important when establishing a committee?

To recruit committee members who are in the industry across all disciplines, and who can assist and volunteer their time for organising events.

What were some of the challenges in establishing a new special interest group?

Promoting the new group and explaining to people in the industry how the group is differentiated to other associations and groups.

How do you build a special interest group from scratch?

We began dialogue with the Society of Petroleum Engineers and then approached engineering managers of major companies in the oil and gas industry. We also prepared a term of reference to be endorsed by Congress of Engineers Australia.

How do you maintain relationships with other associations and yet grow your membership base?

Engineers Australia has a mutual agreement with several overseas engineering associations, from the American Society of Civil Engineers to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in the United Kingdom.

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