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Chief Executive Officer's review

Geoscience Australia is the national geoscience public sector organisation. We deliver trusted advice and information on the geology and geography of Australia to support faster, smarter decision-making by government, industry and the community. We bring together observations, data and knowledge from across geoscience disciplines to develop innovative applications and solutions in response to Australia’s most important challenges.

Geoscience Australia is committed to building Australia’s resource wealth. In 2018–19, we delivered a strong program of pre-competitive data releases to encourage investment in minerals and energy exploration. This included providing world-leading pre-competitive resources data to industry as part of the Exploring for the Future program. Under the program, Geoscience Australia released a suite of datasets across the year, including a seismic reflection profile of the Kidson Sub-basin in Western Australia, and airborne electromagnetic survey data from the region between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek on the Northern Territory – Queensland border. We also released pre-competitive data that provides industry with new information about the petroleum prospectivity of the Lord Howe Rise, the North West Shelf and the Roebuck Basin. These and other pre-competitive datasets shed light on the potential for mineral or petroleum resources in regions where potential rock sources are buried or poorly understood.

Also through the Exploring for the Future program, we developed and tested a web portal that will make our other pre-competitive datasets easily accessible to all users. The portal will be available in 2019–20.

Geoscience Australia continued its work to ensure Australia’s community safety and to build Australia’s resilience to natural hazards. In 2018–19, Geoscience Australia produced data, information and tools to support government and industry stakeholders, including emergency services organisations and insurance industry bodies. Our tsunami hazard modelling guidelines will help add new levels of rigour and consistency to the ways in which governments respond to and prepare for tsunami risks. Geoscience Australia’s trusted, authoritative advice on disaster and hazard risk continues to be a valued resource for Australian governments, industries and communities.

Geoscience Australia maintained its critical role in providing trusted and independent advice on water resources to inform government policy and decision-making throughout 2018–19. Geoscience Australia provided technical advice on groundwater to support the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program led by the Department of the Environment and Energy. This included geological and hydrogeological data for the Cooper, Isa and Beetaloo regions. We also provided government with independent advice on a range of groundwater issues to inform regulatory and policy decisions.

Geoscience Australia continued to support the Australian Government’s management of the nation’s marine jurisdiction, including through the Australian Hydrographic Office, Parks Australia and the Australian Antarctic Division.

We led data management and sharing initiatives to support the use, protection and management of Australia’s marine jurisdiction. This included establishing the AusSeabed web portal, in partnership with FrontierSI and the Australian Hydrographic Office. AusSeabed coordinates and collects bathymetric data held by Commonwealth, state and territory government bodies, universities and industry to ensure that the data are readily available to users.

In 2018–19, Geoscience Australia demonstrated its leadership in providing fundamental geographic information to support Australian industries and communities, becoming Chair of the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM) and Chair of the International Seabed Authority Legal and Technical Commission. Geoscience Australia also continued to represent the Australian Government on the Regional Committee of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Asia and the Pacific.

In January 2019, Geoscience Australia completed the Satellite-Based Augmentation System Testbed program, in partnership with the New Zealand Government. The program trialled more accurate and reliable satellite positioning technology through 27 projects across Australia and New Zealand, in a range of industry sectors including agriculture, mining, construction and aviation. The testbed was a world-first for this type of positioning technology. The project findings indicate that the Australian Government’s $224.9 million investment over four years for improved GPS in the 2018–19 Budget will have substantial economic, social and environmental benefits across many Australian industry sectors.

Digital Earth Australia (DEA) demonstrated the power of Earth observation data in its collaboration with the Murray–Darling Basin Authority and the New South Wales Government. Using satellite imagery, DEA mapped more than 90 000 water bodies across New South Wales, from rivers to farm dams. This information is now available to farmers, businesses and communities throughout the Murray–Darling Basin to help them manage water.

In February 2019, the Australian Government and the United States-based Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust each committed US$10 million to expand the Digital Earth platform to develop Digital Earth Africa. DEA is coordinating the development of the Digital Earth Africa platform, and is providing technical and operational support.

Linking information to location is an increasingly valuable tool for decision-makers in government and industry. In 2018–19, Geoscience Australia released a prototype of its national Location Index, which provides users with ‘digital maps’ of their local regions, overlaying information about industry, resources and infrastructure with location data. We will continue to build this capability in 2019–20.

Geoscience Australia plays a critical role in maintaining geoscience knowledge and capability amongst Australian governments, industries and communities, to support evidence-based policy and decision-making. In 2018–19, Geoscience Australia’s network of seismic, geomagnetic and geospatial observatories exceeded its targets for data and service delivery. In September 2018, following the magnitude 5.3 earthquake at Lake Muir, Western Australia, we deployed our first remote earthquake monitoring equipment, which is placed in the field to collect data close to the earthquake source and integrated to our National Earthquake Alerts Centre. Through to February 2019, this monitoring system collected near-real-time data on aftershocks, which were downloaded by over 1500 stakeholders from government, industry and academia.

Geoscience Australia’s commitment to broader public knowledge and awareness of geoscience focused on education and outreach activities, education resources and collections that build science literacy, inspire curiosity and support public engagement. Our Education Centre and exhibit materials were updated, and more than 11 000 students participated in Geoscience Australia’s education program. A highlight of Geoscience Australia’s collection development was the acquisition of a piece of lunar touchstone sampled during the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Apollo 17 mission. The touchstone will be an important part of our public display in 2019–20.

Geoscience Australia also hosted its first student teacher placement and took part in a number of teacher education programs, including the National Science Teachers Summer School, as part of a renewed focus on supporting geoscience education in schools.

In June 2019, we launched Geoscience Australia Strategy 2028, a 10-year plan that sets our direction and articulates the impact that our science has on Australian government, industry and communities. Our strategy sets ambitious targets across Geoscience Australia’s six key impacts:

  • building Australia’s resource wealth
  • supporting Australia’s community safety
  • securing Australia’s water resources
  • managing Australia’s marine jurisdictions
  • creating a location-enabled Australia
  • enabling an informed Australia.

Strategy 2028 also outlines the commitment we make to achieving our targets in a way that ensures that Geoscience Australia is the strongest, most resilient organisation it can be. We will do this by focusing on science excellence, making the most of our data, ensuring that we have supportive stakeholders and enhancing our inclusive and positive organisational culture.