Knowing where you are, where things are around you and being able to navigate between them has always been important.

Explorers navigated the seas in search of faraway lands and created detailed maps of the Earth using the sun and clocks to compute their position. Surveyors trekked through unchartered regions carrying heavy equipment to measure the highest peaks relative to sea level. Engineers met in the middle with incredible accuracy after tunnelling through mountains, underground or underwater. None of this happens by chance, it is all thanks to having an accurate and robust Geospatial Reference System.

A Geospatial Reference System is the collection of:

  • datums (e.g. Geocentric Datum of Australia 2020, Australian Height Datum), reference frames (e.g. Australian Terrestrial Reference Frame) and working surfaces (e.g. Australian Vertical Working Surface) used to define latitude, longitude, height, orientation and gravity throughout Australia;
  • infrastructure, including a national network of Global Navigation Satellite System Continuously Operating Reference Stations and survey marks to provide an authoritative and accurate network in support of positioning applications;
  • models describing dynamic, geophysical processes that affect spatial measurements; and
  • standards to ensure positioning information is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (e.g. ISO / OGC / GeodesyML).

Like the foundations of a house, a Geospatial Reference System provides a stable, accurate and reliable frame on which accurate measurements can be made and connected together. One common type of frame are the graticule (grid) of lines of latitude and longitude on the Earth where the equator is our zero point (point of reference) for latitude and the Greenwich meridian is our zero point for longitude.

This frame, providing zero points to which we refer positions, directions and measurements of the Earth, is priceless.

The importance of Geospatial Reference Systems was recognised by the United Nations in 2015 with the adoption of a General Assembly Resolution promoting the importance of an accurate, sustainable and accessible Global Geodetic Reference Frame to support science and society.

A Geospatial Reference System underpins the collection, management and alignment of spatial information and enables us to monitor the dynamic Earth as it breathes. In addition to the traditional survey, mapping and navigation fields, spatial information are increasingly critical for civil engineering, industrial automation, agriculture, construction, mining, recreation, intelligent transport systems, land use planning and administration, construction and hazard assessment, disaster response and emergency management, environmental studies and scientific research. The Geospatial Reference System is the glue that allows us to align these spatial data to make better decisions.