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Providing fundamental geographic information


Understand the location and timing of processes, activities and changes across the Australian continent to inform decision-making for both natural and built environments.


To achieve this objective, Geoscience Australia provides reliable national fundamental information about the geographies of the nation.

Performance criteria and results

Table 6: Strategic priority: Providing fundamental geographic information—performance

Digital Earth Australia

Program deliverable1


Deliver projects in partnership with Australian government entities that improve their efficiency and/or effectiveness through the use of Earth observation data

Digital Earth Australia (DEA) worked extensively with the Murray–Darling Basin Authority and the New South Wales Government to map over 90 000 water bodies and on-farm storages across New South Wales.

The improved understanding of water availability and management supports water policy implementation, compliance, and evidence-based decision-making across organisations, businesses, and communities of the Murray–Darling Basin.

In February 2019, DEA secured $25 million in funding for an initiative that will bring data cube technologies to Africa.

Work with business to enable them to capitalise on Earth observation data, and create new capabilities to increase efficiency, productivity and employment opportunities

In February 2019, DEA launched its industry strategy. The strategy was developed from a series of nationwide workshops and consultation with over 200 individuals across a broad range of Australian businesses.

In May 2019, DEA announced the launch of DEA Labs, a small-scale industry incubator program designed to accelerate the adoption of DEA services and technology across businesses. Three successful proposals will receive up to $50 000 each in the second half of 2019 to test their ideas.

Cibo Labs, an Australian agritech start-up, is using DEA-provided data as a primary input for the development of its land information products. Those products are now forming a key input to the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, which is developing the nation’s first measures for vegetation change for the beef industry.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Key performance indicator


2018–19 result

Delivery of Surface Reflectance product from initial receipt of satellite data1

< 90 days

< 20 days

Data from the Landsat satellites is usually processed within 16 days of receipt.

Data from the Sentinel-2 satellites is processed within 48 hours of receipt.

The provision of new decision-ready data within hours/days of each satellite overpass is an essential input for time-critical applications such as emergency management and up-to-date pasture health and condition monitoring.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

National Location Information Framework

Program deliverable1


Maintain Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure collection management, governance, discovery and delivery systems

Geoscience Australia continued to direct operational support for the systems that help government, business and citizens to find and access mapping information. These included ELVIS, the Foundation Spatial Data Framework LINK, NationalMap, the Australian Marine Spatial Information System, and other specific mapping infrastructures for other Australian Government entities.

Geoscience Australia continued to enhance its infrastructures to provide accessibility to further datasets. For example:

  • collection of topographic map products is now completely digital and hardcopy map distribution has ended
  • development of a digital catalogue for the historical aerial photography collection has commenced
  • ELVIS is being trialled to automate the delivery of the national place names directly from state, territory and other naming authorities.

Through the Data Integration Partnership for Australia, Geoscience Australia progressed development of the Location Index. The Location Index is a data system which will make it easy for policy developers and analysts to easily integrate environmental, business and social data, based on an area of interest. Geoscience Australia also made recommendations to the partnership on improvements to other data hubs to maximise their use in policy development.

Provide leadership and advice to develop and operate the Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure in line with the Australian Government’s Spatial Data and Open Data Policy functions

Geoscience Australia commenced as the Chair of the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM) and the International Seabed Authority Legal and Technical Commission, and continued to represent the Australian Government on ANZLIC, the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), and global geospatial standards authorities.

Geoscience Australia:

  • led projects to improve the national coordination of data acquisition and management of infrastructure via ANZLIC, the ICSM and the Data Integration Partnership for Australia
  • continued to lead the implementation of global standards to share maritime boundaries information between nations through the International Hydrographic Office
  • addressed global legal and policy framework concerns on the collection and use of location information via the UN-GGIM
  • led a significant transformation of the operating framework for the ICSM, so that the Commonwealth, states and territories can collectively address major geospatial information challenges in a holistic and efficient manner
  • continued to work with the Attorney-General’s Department to modernise the legal framework for offshore data in line with the intention to re-proclaim Australia’s national maritime boundary zones in 2021.

Develop and deliver information products identified in the Foundation Spatial Data Framework to support Australian Government onshore and offshore programs

Geoscience Australia continued to provide access to national topographic base maps and elevation, surface water, and administrative boundaries datasets identified in the Foundation Spatial Data Framework. The ELVIS user survey was completed, revealing a huge diversity in users and uses across the 60 000 individual downloads of open elevation data that occurred in 2018–19.

Layers in the national base map were updated from new data sources and the base map was expanded to cover all Australian external territories, including Antarctica. Selected transport, bathymetry and landcover datasets were updated as the first phase of a major collaboration with the Department of Defence to improve the content of Australia’s foundation spatial datasets.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Key performance indicator1


2018–19 result

Geoscience Australia’s foundation spatial data products, including authoritative representations of Australia’s maritime boundaries and topography, are updated and/or accessible through interactive mapping platforms



Geoscience Australia’s foundation spatial data products continued to be made accessible via the organisation’s own delivery systems, including ELVIS, interactive maps and the Australian Marine Spatial Information System, and whole-of-government platforms such as NationalMap.

Geoscience Australia’s spatial data products meet the requirements of relevant legislation and policy implementation


All foundation spatial datasets for which Geoscience Australia is data custodian comply with the Australian Government’s open data policy.

Specific measures of fitness for purpose against policy requirements will be developed for future reporting.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.


Program deliverable1


Complete satellite-based augmentation system Testbed Program including financial benefits analysis report

The final report for the financial benefits analysis for the Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) Testbed Program was completed and will be released in July 2019.

Procurement of satellite-based augmentation system follow-on services

The procurement of the SBAS service is proceeding. A request for information was released to industry in May 2019 and closed in late June 2019. Procurement of cybersecurity advice, probity advice and legal advice has been completed. The next phase of the procurement involves full specification of the request for tender, which is intended for release in January 2020.

Implement national positioning information capability Open Data Sharing policy

Geoscience Australia has completed data-sharing agreements with all jurisdictions except the Northern Territory, to enable open access to Australia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) tracking data. Procurement panels have been established for the GNSS site components. Planning is underway for a rollout of new infrastructure. Development of the GNSS analysis software is progressing well, with the first release of the software being planned for July 2019.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Analysis of performance

Geoscience data and information are a significant national resource with enduring value for the Australian community. The idea of ‘place’ or ‘location’ being critical to decision-making is becoming more apparent to government policy makers and data specialists. Knowing when and where events and activities occur is essential to enable government, industry, researchers and the community to make decisions and improve economic, environmental and social outcomes for Australia.

Geoscience Australia provides leadership for Australia’s spatial data infrastructure, and access to a range of national datasets that are critically important to decision-making by government, business and the community. A major focus in 2018–19 was enhancing coordination with partners across all levels of government. Geoscience Australia assisted states and territories to improve the supply chains that deliver the national datasets. The pre-existing elements of the positioning infrastructure, including the geodetic observatories, sustained their high levels of performance.

Geoscience Australia continued to progress the implementation of DEA, the Location Index, the Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS), the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability, NationalMap and other location information technologies. Many of those technologies were applied to policy challenges in 2018–19, by government entities such as the Murray–Darling Basin Authority, the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Geoscience Australia launched DEA Labs, the first part of the DEA industry strategy, as a small- scale incubator program designed to accelerate the adoption of location information services and technology across business, and continued to operate the Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure Portal, which informs business planning and investment in the renewable energy sector.

Geoscience Australia will invest in industry via DEA Labs to test ideas to apply the technology that is being developed. Geoscience Australia will also continue to apply that technology to Australia’s foreign policy and international development agendas. Funding committed in 2019 by the Australian Government and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to the development of Digital Earth Africa. Commencing in 2019–20, this work will result in the world’s largest operational platform for accessing and analysing free satellite imagery specific to Africa’s land and seas.

Geoscience Australia will work with partners in the states and territories to expand the scope of the Enhanced Location Value Information System (ELVIS) platform to provide access to a wider variety of datasets, and continue to work with Australian Government partners to improve the NationalMap platform and operationalise the Location Index.

After the initial planning and procurement phases of the SBAS and National Positioning Infrastructure Capability projects, 2019–20 will see significant progress towards program delivery.

The delivery of the SBAS has been complicated by the extension of the program scope to develop a regional system with New Zealand. Other nations have also expressed interest in joining the SBAS program.