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Creating a location-enabled Australia


To use detailed and fundamental geographic location information to develop our nation.


Geoscience Australia provides trusted fundamental geographic information and advice to support evidence-based decision-making.

Performance criteria and results

Table 6: Strategic priority: Creating a location-enabled Australia—performance

Digital Earth Australia

Program deliverable1


Deliver decision-ready satellite data and information products to government and industry users

Geoscience Australia:

  • delivered the first draft datasets for a new national Land Cover Classification System (LCCS) for Australia, at 30 metre resolution and in 38 classes. The LCCS takes a modular approach to land cover classification that allows us to enhance the product over time as new, more granular data is added. Users have been extremely positive about the improved LCCS compared to older land cover models
  • finished upgrading Geoscience Australia’s Landsat Collection 3. This upgrade provides a consistent processing environment for Landsat satellite data. It provides better global integration with United States Geological Survey Landsat products, significantly reduces data preparation for end users and vastly improves atmospheric correction
  • completed the first round of our small-scale industry grants program, Digital Earth Australia (DEA) Labs. All three project partners were able to develop commercially viable products to their satisfaction. The lessons learned from these projects will inform the design of round two in 2020–21
  • partnered with the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to create a routine, reliable and accessible water monitoring and management tool (DEA Waterbodies). DEA Waterbodies uses satellite data to identify and map approximately 300 000 bodies of water across Australia, and then monitor changes to their extents over time. The New South Wales Natural Resource Access Regulator is using DEA Waterbodies to assist with catchment-scale monitoring of water compliance
  • produced Wetlands Insight Tool results characterising the behaviour of 833 436 Australian wetlands with respect to inundation and vegetation cover over the last 30 years. The Wetlands Insight Tool is currently being tested by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science; the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning; the South Australian Department for Environment and Water; the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment; the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office; and MDBA. These organisations are using the tool for applications including environmental water resource planning and management, assessing wetlands protection measures for Great Barrier Reef Report cards, evaluating the Basin Plan, and supporting the assessment of development approvals based on historical wetland character
  • finished transitioning our analysis-ready data processing to the new Gadi supercomputer at the Australian National University, National Computational Infrastructure (NCI)
  • enhanced the DEA Hotspots system by adding data from the Himawari-8 satellite, providing hotspot updates every 10 minutes. This work was accelerated following the 2019–20 bushfires, which saw significant interest in the system. DEA Hotspots had more than 880 000 users between September 2019 and February 2020
  • streamlined processing of analysis-ready data from the Sentinel-2 satellite and are maintaining user-accessible collections on the NCI and Amazon Web Services (AWS), with a latency of less than 20 days.

Key performance indicator (KPI)1



Availability to users of decision-ready data



DEA decision-ready data has been available to users with an uptime of over 99%.

See https://status.dea.ga.gov.au for further details.

Digital Earth Africa

Program deliverable1


Establish institutional hosting arrangement in Africa for the Digital Earth Africa program office

Geoscience Australia is continuing efforts to develop an agreement with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to become the hosting institution for the Digital Earth Africa program office. To mitigate the risk of failing to reach an agreement with UNECA, we have developed an alternative, distributed model that draws on regional partner institutions in Africa.

Deliver analysis-ready satellite data and decision-ready information products to government and industry users

Geoscience Australia released a continental map of surface water for Africa (Water Observations from Space) in November 2019. It provides unique information on the distribution of water on the continent for the past two decades.

We delivered operational analysis-ready satellite data for all of Africa on 15 June 2020, via satellite images that are openly discoverable and available through the Digital Earth Africa map. New images are captured each day and routinely added to the system.

Australian Spatial Data Framework

Program deliverable1


Deliver the Location Index (Loc-I) pilot as part of the Data Integration Partnership for Australia

Geoscience Australia successfully completed the Loc-I pilot. We achieved the project goals of understanding stakeholders’ needs relating to linking data based on location; building a strong collaboration between partners; demonstrating linked data and Discrete Global Grid System capabilities; and testing governance models.

The Australian Government used the Loc-I capability to inform its response to the 2019–20 bushfires and COVID-19, demonstrating the speed, accuracy and repeatability of location-based data integration.

The key outcomes of the pilot include:

  • continuous growth in interest among government entities and researchers regarding Loc-I capabilities, and their inclusion in cross-jurisdictional and cross-entity projects
  • Geoscience Australia and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment identifying use cases for Loc-I, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and CSIRO indicating willingness to take Loc-I forward in 2020–21
  • the Loc-I Board recognising Loc-I innovation and agreeing to develop options for targeted funding opportunities in future Federal Budget processes, including for the COVID-19 response, bushfire recovery and natural disaster planning.

Establish governance rules between the Australian Government and state and territory entities to better manage datasets and infrastructure for Australia’s Foundation Spatial Data Framework (FSDF)

Geoscience Australia provided executive office operations for the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM) and established a new ICSM National Collaborative Framework, with a Head Agreement signed in June 2020.

We established the ELVIS steering committee to manage an important component of national spatial data infrastructure. This committee includes representation from states and territories and the Commonwealth Government. It provides national governance for elevation and place name data infrastructure, and the delivery of that infrastructure.

Modernise the data infrastructure and supply chains that maintain the national datasets in the FSDF

The Australia and New Zealand Land Information Council (ANZLIC) approved Geoscience Australia’s modernisation proposal for the FSDF. This proposal involves expanding the FSDF to include the built environment, critical infrastructure, geology and soils, which will provide broader data for government and public users.

We conducted a review of topographic paper map distribution and developed a plan for future delivery of topographic information to improve data and introduce a print-on-demand capability.

Geoscience Australia aggregated a nationally consistent FSDF data product—Australia’s Land Borders—from authoritative data supplied by state and territory land organisations. This dataset will help the ABS construct the statistical mesh blocks for the 2021 Census and resolve cross-border data aggregation issues.

As the custodian of the largest national collection of historical aerial photography, we made significant improvements to the discoverability and delivery of information through a new online portal: https://imagery.aerialphotography.fsdf.org.au/.

Geoscience Australia also invested in continuing digitisation by commissioning scanning of a further 110 000 photo frames from aerial survey films. As a result, around 370 000 images (approximately 30% of the collection) are now digitised and accessible to the public. The aerial photography catalogue has an online API that uses open platforms, and an application where the public can discover and download (via Creative Commons) aerial photography and flight-line diagrams going back to the 1930s.

Under the ICSM’s Cadastre 2034 Strategy, we conducted research into a national picture of the ‘ecosystem’ of land tenure and rights, restrictions and responsibilities (RRRs). We did so to enable Australia’s land stakeholders to readily and confidently identify the location and extent of all RRRs related to land and real property.

Provide digital mapping tools and technology for government policy priorities

Geoscience Australia operated NationalMap, the Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure (AREMI) and the Investor Map online mapping platforms, supporting the Australian Government’s open data policy and economic investment in northern Australia and the renewable energy sector.


Program deliverable1


Completion of the satellite-based augmentation system follow-on program and the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability program

Completion of the initial GNSS network refresh and extension

In progressing work against 2020–21/22 program deliverables, Geoscience Australia:

  • released analysis of the benefits of more accurate and reliable positioning for Australian and New Zealand industry. The Ernst & Young analysis of Geoscience Australia’s Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) testbed shows that accurate, instant and reliable positioning will generate $6.2 billion in the Australian economy over 30 years, through new technologies and greater efficiencies. The SBAS testbed comprised 27 projects that trialled SBAS technologies across 10 industry sectors in 45 specific positioning applications
  • signed agreements with all states and territories to bring their Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) data into the Positioning Australia GNSS network as part of our work to deliver a national positioning infrastructure capability. This led to a 400% increase in the number of users of our positioning infrastructure. Free and open access to a denser network of stations has improved the accessibility of data and the performance of the positioning information for users in Victoria, New South Wales and south-east Queensland. After completing design and development, work commenced on upgrading and expanding the network. This was delayed as fieldwork ceased to comply with COVID-19 safety measures
  • released open-access tools and services that enable Australian businesses to apply high-accuracy positioning information. We released two geodetic reference frameworks that align Australian positioning information with world-leading applications, improving access to more efficient geodetic data to support centimetre-level positioning
  • released open-source software that is capable of determining satellite orbits, positions and timing errors, and managing the acquisition, processing and delivery of multi-GNSS data and related products. Users can integrate this software into devices and applications to incorporate precise positioning into their operations. This supports the Positioning Australia program’s vision of instantaneous GNSS positioning anywhere at any time, with the highest possible accuracy and the highest possible integrity.

In February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern jointly announced the collaboration between Australia and New Zealand to deliver the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network under the Australia New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement (ANZSRICA). This component of the Positioning Australia program will deliver the first SBAS for the Australasian region. Procurement of the SBAS is underway, with a fully operational SBAS system anticipated by 2023.

Program KPI



Availability of the GNSS network to support continuous, real-time positioning applications



The target KPI for network availability was not met this year. This was a direct result of not being able to respond to issues at stations in remote parts of Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

1 Source: 2019–20 Corporate Plan

Case Study

Using positioning infrastructure to help predict storms

Storms cause great damage to Australians and their property. Key examples include the 2016 state-wide blackout in South Australia, and in 1999 the severe Sydney hailstorm that became the largest single insurance loss in Australian history, valued at $1.7 billion.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) continually improves the accuracy of its weather forecasting system. Distribution and density of water vapour in the atmosphere is one of the hardest variables to predict in a weather forecasting system. Water vapour is a very important gas for meteorological forecasting because of the latent heat it carries in transport.

Geoscience Australia scientists have worked with the BoM to use the Positioning Australia GNSS network to infer atmospheric water vapour content. This involves determining how much the GNSS signal has been delayed as it passes from the satellite, through the atmosphere, to the GNSS receiver on the ground. Measuring the amount of water vapour using data collated and analysed from hundreds of GNSS stations across Australia has significantly improved the accuracy of weather forecasting. This improvement applies under all conditions, but especially when predicting storm events. Geoscience Australia’s GNSS-based information products are now routinely applied to improve the BoM’s weather forecasts, which are used by all Australians.

Performance analysis

Location-based data and technologies remained crucial to decision making by business, citizens and government organisations during 2019–20. Demand continued to increase for easy-to-use, openly available, reliable, nationwide Earth observation and digital mapping data describing Australia’s geography, along with highly precise positioning information from satellites. At the same time, there was strong support for maintaining access to traditional forms of location information, such as paper maps. The need to continue unlocking historic aerial photography that mapped the Australian landscape before the digital era also becomes more pressing as older materials deteriorate with age.

Geoscience Australia made good progress with programs supporting improved positioning information from satellite navigation systems. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the collaboration between Australia and New Zealand to deliver the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network under the Australia New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement (ANZSRICA). This component of the Positioning Australia program will deliver the first SBAS for the Australasian region. Geoscience Australia signed agreements with all states and territories to bring their GNSS data into the Positioning Australia GNSS network, increasing the number of users of Geoscience Australia’s positioning infrastructure. We also began upgrading the national GNSS ground station network; however, this work—as well as efforts to maintain network availability for remotely located stations—was hampered by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Take-up of Earth observation information in Australia and Africa improved. We demonstrated the technical feasibility of a ‘data cube’ for Africa, using free and open data and cloud infrastructure, and completed the first round of the DEA Labs program. We also released new datasets for land cover, wetlands and waterbodies, and made significant progress in compiling an authoritative state border dataset and collection of digital historic aerial photography. We improved governance for maintaining and accessing Australia’s national coverage spatial data, through collaborative frameworks with states and territories. We achieved similar success with governance in the Digital Earth Africa project, although work continues to confirm a local host. We established strong foundations for future collaboration on spatial data infrastructure with other Australian Government entities as a result of completing the Loc-I project.

Geoscience Australia’s continued strong leadership and program achievements this year have delivered benefits across government and business. States and territories participating in collaborative governance realised financial benefits, reducing the cost of managing and delivering data to businesses. In addition, businesses realised financial benefits through faster and easier access to that data. In particular, the Australian companies partnering with DEA Labs were able to develop commercially viable products.