Our History

Our Beginnings in 2001

The following article appeared in the 26 November 2001 edition of UNI-NEWS and announced the establishment of the centre.

$1.3m to Melbourne to set up new spatial data centre

The University of Melbourne will receive $1.3 million in State Government funding to set up a research centre that will handle data with the potential to help combat environmental degradation, aid urban and regional planning — or even find a handy Thai restaurant. The new Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land Administration, will be located in the University’s Department of Geomatics. Research in the Centre will drive the evolving concept of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) — a global vision of virtual information systems that integrate and make accessible data that underpins the fabric of modern communities. Establishment of the new Centre is part of the extension of an existing research agreement between Land Victoria and the University of Melbourne. Victorian Minister for Environment and Conservation, Ms Sheryl Garbutt, announced funding for the new centre recently before opening an International Symposium on SDI, sponsored by Land Victoria, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Victoria, and organised by the Department of Geomatics. The symposium brought together key international experts to consider the issues facing the development of a globally compatible and workable SDI that extends from local government, through state, national and regional jurisdictions. Head of the University’s Department of Geomatics and Director of the new Centre, Professor Ian Williamson, describes SDIs as underpinning the relationship and management of humankind to land. SDIs provide spatial information to support the systems that allow modern societies to operate and they allow both the natural and built environment to be modeled and understood, he says.

Global vision: At the opening of the new Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land Administration (from left) Director, Land Information Group, Land Victoria and Honorary Principal Fellow in the Department of Geomatics, Mr Steve Jacoby; Director of the new Centre, Professor Ian Williamson; Executive Director, Land Victoria, Ms Elizabeth O’Keeffe; Minister for Environment and Conservation, Ms Sherryl Garbutt; and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Gilbert.

The new centre will help Australia capture a greater share of a booming $34 billion global market which is growing at 20 percent a year. It will act as a focus for research in SDIs and land administration and will encourage collaborative research projects with State and Federal governments in Australia, the private sector and leading overseas universities. In the past we used maps to try and find where people and objects were. Today, this has evolved into a complex digital environment with sophisticated spatial and related textual databases, satellite positioning and communications networks like the internet and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), he says. A properly functioning SDI allows all this information to be integrated and accessible. Developing an SDI can facilitate things like environmental management, planning and construction of infrastructure — even developing your own business or property can become more cost efficient and effective. For example, emergency services like ambulance and the fire brigade will become more efficient as locations of houses, roads and distances to these locations are able to be represented and measured visually and digitally more accurately using the tools available in our every day lives, not only across Victoria but across Australia. In urban environments, traffic conditions on major roads will be a mouse click away to enable choice of optimum routes to and from emergencies. A future global vision is to facilitate the concept of ‘Digital Earth’ proposed by former Vice President of the USA, Al Gore. Professor Williamson says the new Centre for Spatial data Infrastructures and Land Administration will work closely with the Victorian Government in pursuing a similar vision to ensure that all Victorians have access to the spatial data they require to support their everyday lives and more broadly to ensure economic development and environmental sustainability.

Celebrating 10 Years (2001–2011)

Established in 2001, the CSDILA has been contributing to national and international knowledge and practise in the domain of Land Administration, SDI and spatial enablement for ten years.

To celebrate ten years of research the CSDILA proudly hosted an integrated three day event focussing on the theme ”Beyond Spatial Enablement” held in Melbourne, 5–7 October 2011. The event involved collaborative workshops in spatial information management in conjunction with the 4th UN sponsored Land Administration Forum.


The purpose of the event was to discuss trends strategies and a vision for a spatially enabled future, mapping, SDI and land administration strategies to facilitate spatially enabled government, examining progress to date and considering worldwide challenges and new initiatives that support spatially enabled government and society. The program is being developed to enable networking and sharing of experiences. Resolutions and discussion of the way forward will conclude the event followed by ten year anniversary celebration. The event was being jointly organised by the Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific (PCGIAP) Working Group 3, the Australian Government through its Geoscience Australia and the Centre for SDIs and Land Administration, The University of Melbourne with support from the Global Spatial Data Infrastructures Association (GSDI) and the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG).

Also as part of the celebrations the CSDILA launched a celebration logo. The logo design is based on four intersecting circles to represent the key areas of our research: Local, State, National and International, being off centre the circles illustrate the spaces between and interrelationships between the levels of the hierarchy. In turn the intersection of the circles represents the focus point for our research activities within the CSDILA.