New coordinates for Australia

09 January 2017

Australia's coordinates have moved 1.8 metres northeast, following the launch of the Geocentric Datum of Australia 2020 (GDA2020).

The first update to Australia's coordinate system in two decades, GDA2020 is a step towards modernising Australia's spatial referencing system. Prior to this latest update, Australia's coordinates were no longer in alignment with global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) such as GPS.

GDA2020 will be made available to adopt from early February 2017. The new coordinates are based on the projected position of the Australian continent in 2020, which means they are currently offset from GNSS coordinates by 21 centimetres. In the lead up to 1 January 2020, the Australian tectonic plate will move into alignment as it catches up with GDA2020 positions. The implementation of GDA2020 is beginning now to allow enough time for the significant change in spatial data management required to apply the new coordinates.

The modernisation of Australia's datum is needed to ensure we remain on the right path, with access to the most accurate location and positioning information.

More than ever before, Australians are using applications that rely on accurate satellite positioning. From the technology that makes our everyday lives easier, like in-vehicle navigation and smartphones, to the businesses that rely on precise positioning for activities such as automated mining operations, precision agriculture and surveying. Most Australians who use and benefit from GDA2020 will probably not be aware the update has occurred.

A number of industries in particular will benefit from the implementation of GDA2020, including surveying, spatial sciences and mapping. Others that rely on location information supported by the national geodetic datum, such as construction and mining, will also see improvements following the update.

The next stage of modernising Australia's datum will start in January 2020, when users will be able to transition to a time dependant reference frame. This reference frame will provide a sustainable, traceable, high-precision geospatial reference system capable of meeting even the most demanding positioning requirements. This datum will be fixed to the Earth, and will model the locations of reference points and their movement over time by maintaining full alignment to GNSS.

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