Natmap’s Physical and Administrative Locations



When first established in 1947 the National Mapping Section was part of the Property and Surveys Branch, Department of the Interior and was located in their offices in Acton, ACT (now the site of the National Museum of Australia).


In early 1948 the Survey and Photogrammetric Office of National Mapping was established in Melbourne due to the accommodation shortage in Canberra. For the following 50 years national mapping operations ran simultaneously from both Canberra and Melbourne.

Melbourne operations
The first Melbourne office was in a couple of rooms in the old MLC Building (redeveloped today) on the corner of Elizabeth and (303-309) Collins Streets, as the then Department of the Interior had their Victorian survey activities based there. GRL (Rim) Rimington, Ken Johnson and WA (Alan) Thomson and possibly DR (Dave) Hocking comprised the staff. On 28 April 1948 the earliest national mapping map, the Tennant Creek 4 mile to 1 inch, was produced there.

By the end of June 1948 the Photogrammetric office had moved across the street into accommodation at 340 Collins Street. This building was then known as Burke House although later photos of the building show the name Burns House on its facade; today the building is called AUSTOCK House. In 1949, Sairveys, a small mapping firm in Havelock Road, Hawthorn, operated by Harry Rigby was purchased. A photogrammetric section of four operated from there until late 1949, when Melbourne operations were centralised in the All Saints Anglican Church Hall (Gregory Hall) in Chapel St, St Kilda. The main hall being used for the layout of slotted template assemblies and the upper floor as office space. However, at least one slotted template assembly (possibly because of its areal size) was laid down in the then Richmond Drill Hall at 24 Gipps Street (formerly the Richmond Volunteer Rifles orderly room).


A letter signed by the then Chief Topographic Surveyor Lindsay Rimington in June 1948, requested the construction of a Control Assembly Board 9ft by 13ft to be installed on the 5th floor of Burke House. It is believed that as the assemblies grew larger more space was needed hence the move to Gregory Hall.


The National Mapping Section in the Department of the Interior became the National Mapping Office in 1951, and was transferred to the Department of National Development on 2 July 1956 as the Division of National Mapping.


From 1959 until 1977 the Melbourne Office was in the Rialto Building at 497 Collins Street. Initially from 1959, the Natmap Melbourne store was located in the basement at the Collins Street end of the Rialto's Flinders Lane level. However, from circa early 1961 that area of the basement became the repository for aerial survey film negatives when Natmap took custodianship of these films from the Royal Australian Air Force Central Photographic Establishment (subsequently Natmap's aerial film vault held film negatives from its own sources including from aerial photography contractors). As a consequence, from around 1961 until circa 1965 the Natmap store was located on the ground floor of 38-40 Lonsdale Street on the north west corner of then Little Leichhardt Street (later renamed Madame Brussels Lane after a notorious female identity of the area during the late 1800s). But by no later than May 1966 the Natmap store was located on the lower ground floor of the Rialto Building.


In 1977 Natmap Melbourne moved into a purpose built, seven storey, office block, Ellery House, at 280 Thomas Street, Dandenong. The Dandenong office became part of AUSLIG’s (Australian Surveying and Land Information Group) Victorian Regional Office in 1987 but finally closed its doors in 1997 when all operations were centralised in Canberra.

Canberra operations
Initial National Mapping operations started as the National Mapping Section, Property and Surveys Branch, Department of the Interior, at Lennox Crossing, Acton. Later activities were spread across several office buildings in central Canberra. National Mapping's Canberra operations were not housed together until 1962 when they were moved into Derwent House at 28 University Avenue. But as staff numbers increased a number of additional buildings were also occupied; AMP Building (1972-1975), T&G Building, Tasman House, Jolimont Building, Petrie House, and the GIO Building. In addition, Census Mapping was initially housed with Australian Bureau of Statistics in MacArthur House. Natmap's Map Store, holding the bulk of some 2 000 printed map products, and Field Survey Equipment Store were located at Fyshwick at 80 Collie and 9 Lithgow Streets respectively.

From 1974 to 1981, Morisset House, 9 Morisset Street Queanbeyan was occupied before the staff were again relocated back to the ACT to occupy space in Unit 3 of the Cameron Offices in Chandler Street Belconnen until AULSIG’s formation in October 1987. Throughout this period, however, Photolithography stayed in Derwent House until moving to purpose built accommodation in Fern Hill Park, Belconnen in March 1986.


In March 1984 the Australian Landsat Station (ALS) responsibilities were transferred from Department of Science to National Mapping. At the time ALS was occupying a refurbished ex-supermarket at 22-28 Oatley Court, Belconnen. The official name Australian Centre for Remote Sensing (ACRES) was established in October 1986 with ACRES moving into purpose built accommodation in Fern Hill Park, Belconnen in 1989.


The Division of National Mapping had been administered by a number of departments; commencing in 1956 under National Development; 1972 Minerals and Energy; 1975 National Resources; 1979 National Development and Energy; 1983 Resources and Energy until 1987 with the formation of AUSLIG within Administrative Services.


As part of the administrative arrangements associated with the formation of AUSLIG, the Bathymetric mapping function was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy's Hydrographic Service on 1 July 1988.


From late 1987, AUSLIG’s ACT operations were housed in Units 2 and 3 of the Cameron Offices and at the nearby Belconnen Chambers on the corner of Cameron Avenue and Edmonstone Place. Two surveying field party buildings were still occupied, one at “The Depot”, Belconnen (ASO) and the other at Lithgow Street, Fyshwick (Natmap). Photolithography operations continued at Fern Hill Park, Belconnen, as did the work of Natmap's Map Store at Collie Street, Fyshwick.


From 1972 until 1998 the Geodetic Observatory at Orroral Valley, ACT which housed the Lunar Laser Ranger was active, as well as a small out-post at Mount Stromlo, ACT. In 1998 the Orroral Valley facility was closed and activity focussed at Mt Stromlo. The Mt Stromlo facility was destroyed in the 2003 Canberra bushfires and after rebuilding recommenced operations in 2004.   


AUSLIG was not co-located until the Scrivener Building opened in Fern Hill Park, Belconnen in June 1991. But even at that time, because of the technological demands of the equipment, the Australian Centre for Remote Sensing and the Photolithography Section continued to be housed in adjacent buildings named the Don Gray and Lambert buildings respectively.


In 1994, Photolithography’s Lambert building was closed and Photolithography was co-located with ACRES in the Don Gray building. A further consolidation of accommodation in mid-1998 saw the abolition of Photolithography, the closure of the Don Gray building and ACRES located within the Scrivener building.      

Later developments
To complete the story in 2001, AUSLIG was merged with the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO) in the then Department of Industry, Science and Resources. That same year the combined agency was renamed Geoscience Australia (GA) in view of its work in such a wide range of contexts and across many disciplines. In 2003, AUSLIG vacated the Scrivener Building and moved into space within GA’s existing accommodation at Symonston in the ACT. The map store remained in the same location at Fyshwick as did a small geodetic team at Mt Stromlo.

The above detail has been arranged into the Timeline depicted below. As well, (former Nat Mapper and later RAN officer) Paul Spencer’s paper ‘Administrative History of the Division of National Mapping’ from The Australian Surveyor, September 1989, Vol. 34, No. 7, pp 674-681, is provided here with permission.


At the time of writing all National Mapping activities have been subsumed into the GA structure within the Department of Industry (Department also covers Science, Energy, Resources, and Higher Education). However, an ex-Natmapper Drew Clarke as Departmental Secretary had been keeping the Natmap “flame” flickering but with Drew’s departure (2013) Natmap’s life-support has been withdrawn!





Thanks to Alan Thomson for the additional early Melbourne history, John Knight and Colin Kimber for completing the Canberra Office’s locations and photos as well as Eric MacGibbon, and Bob Bobroff and the St Kilda Historical Society, NAA and GA websites for the use of their images. Thanks also to the many other Natmappers for their recollections in order to get the most accurate history possible. Terry Douglas and Murray Porteous provided information as to the location of the Natmap store in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.



Paul Wise

January 2014, variously updated to March 2021
















National Mapping Section, Property and Surveys Branch, at Lennox Crossing, Acton


Survey and Photogrammetric Office, National Mapping, MLC Building, corner of Elizabeth and Collins Streets






then Burke (Burns) House, 340 Collins Street






Photogrammetric Section in Hawthorn, then centralised in Gregory Hall, Chapel Street, East St Kilda



Renamed National Mapping Office



Gregory Hall interior


National Development

National Mapping becomes a Division










Melbourne Office centralised in Rialto Building, 497 Collins Street



Canberra Office moves to Derwent House, a 9-storey building at 28 University Avenue (on the corner of Marcus Clarke Street) on the west side of the Civic Centre until relocated in 1976


Melbourne Office Store, 38-40 Lonsdale Street


Minerals & Energy

Operations at Geodetic Observatory, Orroral Valley




National Resources








Relocates to Morisset House, 9 Morisset St, Queanbeyan

Photolitho stays at Derwent House








Melbourne Office relocates to Ellery House, 280 Thomas St, Dandenong


National Development and Energy








Centralises again in Cameron Offices, Belconnen





Resources and Energy









Australian Landsat Station (ALS) to DNM; ALS at 22-28 Oatley Court, Belconnen.

alice springs daf aug 99






Photolitho to Lambert Building & ACRES to Don Gray Building, Fern Hill Park, Belconnen




Administrative Services

AUSLIG formed occupying several buildings




Melbourne Regional office formed in Ellery House



Bathymetric function to Navy







AUSLIG centralises in Scrivener Building, Fern Hill Park, Belconnen


Orroral Valley remains operational & Don Gray Building still houses ACRES






Lambert Building closed & Photolitho collocated with ACRES










Melbourne Office closed



Photolitho ceases & Don Gray Building closed; ACRES colocated in Scrivener Building


Orroral Valley facility closed; operations to Mt Stromlo




Resources, Energy & Tourism

AUSLIG merges and Geoscience Australia (GA) formed






Scrivener Building closed; all operations now at GA


Bushfires destroy Stromlo facility






Facility rebuilt; resumes operations






Administrative History of the Division of National Mapping



(Published in The Australian Surveyor, September 1989, Vol. 34, No. 7, pp 674-681)




The decision to compile an Administrative History of the Division of National Mapping was taken to fulfil a requirement of a course of study at the Canberra College of Advanced Education. It also offered an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the organisation which was at the forefront of the Commonwealth survey and mapping activity for over forty years. The author’s specific interest in this matter stems from the fact that he commenced his survey career in the Division of National Mapping in 1974. 


This paper does not attempt to list the achievements of the Division, for there have been many, nor does it attempt to focus on the exploits of those individuals who made them possible. Perhaps a history of the activities and exploits of those individuals would provide a far more colourful piece of literature than the following administrative history. Nonetheless, the end of the Division has now occurred and it is an appropriate time to consider its rise and fall from an administrative perspective.


Early History


The office of the Division of National Mapping (DNM) within the Department of National Development was created by Executive Council minute of 2 August 1956 and was made public in the Commonwealth Gazette No. 47 of 16 August 1956.


The National Mapping Section in the Department of the Interior was established in 1951, and was transferred to National Development on 2 July 1956.


At this point it is worthwhile to reflect on the development of mapping and surveying as a Commonwealth activity prior to the creation of DNM.


The Army undertook the first Commonwealth topographic mapping in 1910, and with the formation of a dedicated mapping unit, the Royal Australian Survey Corps in 1915, survey and mapping for defence purposes has continued to be a function of the Army.


The Commonwealth Public Service also became involved in survey and mapping during the early days of Federation with the establishment of the function in the Department of Home Affairs in 1909. In 1916, Home Affairs was abolished and the function was transferred to the new Department of Home and Territories. Initially a small number of maps were produced for civilian purposes and it was not until 1921 that maps were a regular product of the Department. Thus, from the earliest days two survey and mapping organisations existed which relied on funding through the Commonwealth Government.


The Commonwealth survey and mapping function was transferred in 1925 to the Department of Works and Railways, in 1928 to the Department of Home Affairs and finally to the Department of the Interior where it remained for over forty years.

In 1935, Cabinet approved the appointment of a departmental committee chaired by the Commonwealth Surveyor-General, Mr. A. Percival, I.S.O., which was known simply as the Commonwealth Survey Committee. Representatives were from the Departments of Navy, Army, Air, Civil Aviation and later Post-War Reconstruction. Its formation was in response to pressures for the co-ordination of survey and mapping activity with a view to minimising duplication of effort.


In February 1944, Mr F.M. Johnston succeeded Mr. Percival as the fourth Surveyor-General and Chief Property Officer of the Department of the Interior. Johnston’s first priority on taking up the new position was the matter of mapping the continent. He realised that such a sparsely populated and large country could not be mapped in close detail like Great Britain. Apart from the more densely populated areas, the early surveying and mapping activities were primarily undertaken to meet the requirements of early settlement. This work was confined to the better lands and, in the main, depicted detail on the horizontal plane. As was the trend elsewhere, it was realised that the vertical plane, that is, heights, also needed to be considered. From the experiences of war, such maps were essential for defence and the movement of modern land forces. The demand for topographic maps came also from those instrumentalities involved with civil aviation, water conservation and other environmental management activities.


The Department of Post-War Reconstruction at this time was evaluating options for Commonwealth involvement in projects which would facilitate the development of the nation while at the same time providing employment for returned servicemen in worthwhile endeavours. The Department recommended that the survey and mapping of Australia be undertaken as a basis for future national development. This spurred Mr. Johnston to organise a conference between the Commonwealth Survey Committee and the State Surveyors-General for the purpose of considering the national survey and mapping of Australia.


To this end, in 1945 a conference was held in Canberra under the Chairmanship of Mr. Johnston and in attendance were the three Services represented by the RAN Hydrographic Service, the RA Survey Corps and the RAAF Aerial Photography Section.  The Departments of Civil Aviation, Post-War Reconstruction and Interior, the Surveyors-General from the six States, and as an observer, the New Zealand Surveyor-General, Mr R.G. Dick. The Hansard staff recorded the proceedings which are contained in a 100-page report.


Thirteen resolutions were adopted including a resolution which stated that a National Mapping Council be formed with a number of functions, including:


       to co-ordinate and correlate mapping on a national basis; and


to recommend the allocation of Commonwealth funds provided for national mapping.


A resolution entrusted the Commonwealth Surveyor-General, as the Director of National Mapping, with responsibility for the execution of the functions mentioned above. To assist in these duties it was recommended that a Deputy Director of National Mapping be appointed.


The meeting also resolved that there was a particular need for existing Service mapping activities to be maintained and the Army be recognised as a competent agency to conduct the work on the basic 1 and 4 miles to an inch topographic maps and the Navy to continue essential charting activities for defence, developmental and commercial purposes.


It further resolved that the States carry out such topographic and charting work as they consider necessary.


A copy of these resolutions was forwarded by the Prime Minister to each of the State Premiers for acceptance, and were subsequently agreed.


In 1946, a Deputy Director was appointed in the Property and Surveys Branch of the Department of the Interior to assist the Commonwealth Surveyor-General in his duties and to concentrate on the technical activities arising from the creation of the National Mapping Council. The Deputy Director’s sphere of activity was increased in 1947 when a separate National Mapping Section was created within the Property and Surveys Branch.


Activities within the new National Mapping Section expanded considerably and, by 1950, there existed the necessary impetus to push for a greater co-ordination role in the Commonwealth mapping sphere. A number of Departments, namely Development, Railways, Aviation and Construction had established small survey and mapping sections to service their departmental requirements. At this time the Deputy Director became Director of National Mapping and, with the agreement of the States, Chairman of the National Mapping Council.


Following a review of Commonwealth mapping requirements by the Public Service Board, a memorandum to all Permanent Heads and Chief Officers was issued calling for greater effort in minimising duplication of effort amongst Departments.  To achieve this, it directed, inter alia,


       ‘that the appropriate co-ordinating authority responsible for advising

       and guiding Departments in meeting their mapping requirements

       should be the Director of National Mapping, Department of the Interior.’


In 1951, Major-General R. Brown, Director-General of the Ordinance Survey of Great Britain, visited Australia on an invitation from the Minister for the Army. The Minister wished to obtain advice on the roles and functions of the Survey Corps and on issues relating to the co-ordination of national mapping activities. Major-General Brown reported the Survey Corps was more involved than any other organisation in national survey and mapping. Brown recommended an enquiry by an independent body to assess the need for national mapping as a Commonwealth activity. He also recommended the formation of a single authority responsible for all geodetic, topographic survey and mapping required for all Commonwealth purposes. Action was not taken to have an independent review of the national mapping requirement. The Recommendations were strongly debated at successive National Mapping Council meetings and inter-departmental conferences over the next two years.


A number of the above recommendations were included in a Public Service Board submission to Cabinet in July 1954. Cabinet decided that the Department of the Interior should be the single authority for all Commonwealth topographic survey and mapping meeting defence as well as civilian needs. It also established the standing Advisory Committee on Commonwealth Mapping (ACOCM), consisting of the Permanent Head of Interior, a nominee of the Minister for the Army and a nominee, to be selected by the Minister of the Interior from a panel submitted by the Institution of Surveyors, Australia.


The Cabinet decision also placed with the Authority, namely the Department of the Interior, all responsibilities for geodetic and topographic surveys and mapping in the Department of the Army. The decision also required Army to second to the Authority, on specific tours of full-time civil duty, all staff normally employed on geodetic and topographic surveys and mapping.


The Commonwealth Survey Committee, since the creation of the National Mapping Council in 1946, had become an ineffectual forum and was disbanded by the 1954 Cabinet decision.


In 1954, ACOCM recommended that basic topographic mapping at scales of 1:50 000 to 1:1 000 000 be accepted as forming the Commonwealth Topographic Survey and the activities of the National Mapping Section be directed primarily towards the production of these maps.


The Department of the Army found difficulty with the 1954 Cabinet decision in connection with the secondment of personnel to the National Mapping Section.  Primarily these problems may be traced to the difficulties of the employment of personnel within the same operational organisation operating under two different Acts of Parliament, namely the Defence Act and the Public Service Act. The responsible Ministers agreed, in 1955, to an arrangement whereby Army continued to carry out mapping work under Army control and would provide services to the National Mapping Section on an agency basis.


It was also found, in practice, that not all Army responsibilities could be transferred to the Authority, notably those arising from international agreements such as SEATO which were not of direct significance in the development of Australia.


In 1956, Prime Minister Menzies announced in the House of Representatives that the National Mapping functions of the Department of the Interior were to be transferred to the Department of National Development. The loss of these functions occurred with such suddenness that it caused considerable dissatisfaction leading to increasingly uneasy relationships.


This point in the paper represents the completion of the overview of developments which led to the Division of National Mapping creation by executive Council minute of 2 August 1956.  The remainder of the paper focuses on the administrative history of the Division to the changes brought about by Administrative arrangement Order of 24 July 1987. This will be followed by a summary of the results of the dismantling process.


Three Decades of the Division of National Mapping


By 1964, ACOCM had grown to include membership of the Secretaries of Navy, Army, Interior, and National Development (Chairman) and a representative of The Institution of Surveyors, Australia.

At the February 1965 ACOCM meeting, an agreement was adopted which developed from the 1954 Cabinet decision which noted:


Department of National Development, Division of National Mapping, is the single authority with full responsibility for all geodetic and topographic mapping required for Commonwealth purposes, and for the co-ordination of these surveys and mapping with those of the States.


Attempts earlier by the Secretary, Department of National Development to have the 1954 Cabinet decision changed by a submission through the Public Service Board to Cabinet were unsuccessful.  In 1963 the Public Service board found that, inter alia:


‘In regard to the question of whether Cabinet should be informed of or asked to endorse the various administrative arrangements which have been made since 1954, the Board’s view is that such action is not essential.  Informal consultation with the Prime Minister’s Department supports this view.’


Thus, the role of the Division of National Mapping, while being agreed at the Departmental level, was never endorsed by Cabinet.  This was to prove a considerable administrative handicap in future inter-departmental interactions and in the evolving relationships between the Director, the National Mapping Council and the State authorities.


The Division of National Mapping, at this time, was directed by B.P. Lambert, O.B.E, a capable surveyor and administrator, who had been at the head of the function since its creation in 1946 when he was appointed as the Deputy Director, National Mapping Section of the Property and Surveys Branch of the Department of the Interior. As Chairman of the National Mapping Council, he was required to consult with individual members and draw up, for Council approval, operational plans for the National Geodetic and Levelling Survey, which was successfully completed in 1967 and 1971 respectively. The Levelling Survey was completed on time and within budget making it probably the most successful national survey undertaken. This was mainly due to the co-ordinating efforts of the members of the National Mapping Council, the Director of National Mapping and the survey contractors who completed a significant proportion of the work. Lambert was also closely involved with many international survey and mapping authorities, both civilian and military, until his retirement in 1977.


In 1954, the task of commencing a national mapping program was formidable and the decision was to undertake a preliminary mapping phase at the 1:250 000 scale. The first full map coverage of Australia was completed in 1968. Most of these maps were not contoured. The specifications applied to the production of the 1:250 000 maps were civilian in nature and thus were not well suited for defence needs. Army, on the other hand, was producing maps which met the geographic information needs of the military. Army and National Mapping continued to produce these maps in mutual areas thus duplicating each other’s activities.


In 1965, acting on a submission from the Minister for National Development, Cabinet approved a program of 1:100 000 mapping of Australia to be completed by the end of 1975. The decision authorised the Department of National Development, inter alia,


‘to organise and enter upon it on the basis that priority be given to the mapping of  Northern Australia.’


In the associated submission there were indications that Army was to undertake part of the work and it was also intended to make substantial use of the private sector. The broad case for such a mammoth task rested not only on defence requirements but also the useful purposes it would serve in Australia’s development, especially in the Northern Territory, and assessing Australia’s natural resources, including the location of oil and minerals. The program has been actively pursued. However, partly due to insufficient resources, completion has not occurred and is now expected by 1989.


By 1967, the whole of Australia had been covered by air photography for the first time and quite a reasonable area had been covered by contoured medium scale maps. In the same year, the National Geodetic Survey was completed to the stage of providing a basis for the physical co-ordination of mapping and the National Mapping council had adopted a National Geodetic Datum.


On 11 March 1970, Cabinet decided to vest responsibility in the Division of National Mapping for a program to map the continental shelf of Australia at a scale of 1:250 000 to be completed by 1980. The Bathymetric Mapping Branch was established in 1971 with a small staff. The program commenced on a contract footing. However, these were later terminated. In May 1973, the Division commenced operations utilising the Department of Transport’s ship M.V. Cape Pillar. For a short period another Department of Transport ship, M.V. Cape Don, was also chartered.


Aspects of the bathymetric program came to Cabinet’s attention on two other occasions. On the 23 February 1981, Cabinet approved an increase in charter time for M.V. Cape Pillar and, on 25 June 1984, Cabinet approved the retention of M.V. Cape Pillar to support the bathymetric program and the joint Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence deep water hydrographic survey aid project in the South West Pacific Region.


By 1972, except for the Division of National Mapping, the Army Survey Corps and RAN Hydrographic Service, the Property and Surveys Branch of the Department of the Interior consisted of a consolidation of all remaining Commonwealth survey and mapping functions. The Branch included in its activities the administering of Land Acts pertaining to Commonwealth lands throughout the country and continued to be actively involved in the planning and execution of surveys in the national capital.


Also in 1972, with the abolition of the Department of the Interior, the Property and Surveys Branch transferred to the newly created Department of Services and Property.  In 1973, the Branch reached Divisional status and was renamed the Australian Survey Office with the Commonwealth Surveyor-General as its head.


In December 1972, the Division of National Mapping transferred to the newly created Department of Minerals and Energy. In the course of the next ten years, the Division was transferred on the following occasions; December 1975 to National Resources, December 1977 to National Development, December 1979 to National Development and Energy and finally, in March 1983, to Resources and Energy. Each new Department merely represented an administrative renaming and not a physical move to another existing Department.

In 1976, the Administrative Review Committee produced the Bland Report which dealt with the matter of Commonwealth survey and mapping. It recommended that there was no advantage in amalgamating the Division with the Australian Survey Office since the two divisions had different purposes and duplication is minimised through regular informal liaison. As pointed out above, since the abolition of ACOCM, no formal structures existed for co-ordination of Commonwealth survey and mapping other than the National Mapping Council whose efforts were directed more towards Commonwealth/State matters.


In August 1981, arising from the Review of Commonwealth functions, the Ministers of three Departments involved in survey and mapping at the Commonwealth level directed a group chaired by the Public Service Board to examine and report on the scope for merging Commonwealth organisations responsible for survey and mapping activities. The review group consisted of members from the Division of National Mapping, Department of Development and Energy, Australian Survey Office, Department of Administrative Services and Royal Australian Survey Corps and RAN Hydrographic Services, Department of Defence. The report (Moran Report) recommended that, inter alia:


‘there should be no merging of the four organisations…nor any transfer of functions between organisations.’


Acting on a further recommendation in the above Report, Cabinet directed the establishment of the Commonwealth Co-ordinating Group on Mapping, Charting and Surveying (CCGMCS) in October 1981 with a charter to improve consultation and co-ordination of Commonwealth mapping, charting and surveying activities. The CCGMCS was chaired by the Department of National Development and Energy with membership from the Department of Defence and the Department of Administrative Services, each at the Deputy-Secretary level. The members of the group were assisted by technical advisers at the Director level from each of the four Commonwealth survey and mapping organisations. The Group met three times in its first year and produced an Initial Report to Ministers (1982) which was never endorsed. Furthermore, the minutes of the meetings were never agreed, due in part to conflicting views on the matter of responsibility for mapping at 1:50 000 scale. The Group did not meet thereafter.


The Division of National Mapping staff level declined from 484 in 1976 to 295 in 1985 with the most dramatic reduction occurring from the 1976 level to 319 in 1978. While this reduction cannot be attributed to one single factor, it can be assumed that the Public Service staff reduction policy of successive Governments and completion of many of the major survey and mapping programs each played their part.


In July 1984, Cabinet directed a further review of topographic mapping to be undertaken. This decision, in part, arose from a dispute between the Division of National Mapping and Army over responsibility for progressing the larger scale and more resource-intensive 1:50 000 scale mapping. Professor J.E. Richardson was commissioned by the Public Service Board to undertake the review. The Richardson Report was produced mid-1986 and it has yet to be released. However, it is clear his findings had a far-reaching effect on Commonwealth survey and mapping.


In the Administrative Arrangements Order of July 1987, all functions of the Division of National Mapping were brought together with those of the Australian Survey Office, within the new Department of Administrative Services. Within a few days, the two organisations were amalgamated to form the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (AUSLIG). The bathymetric mapping function was transferred from AUSLIG to the RAN Hydrographic Service on 1 July 1988.


A Department of Administrative Services Press Release in October 1988 mentioned that Cabinet had decided to retain the majority of the ex-National Mapping functions within AUSLIG on the basis that generally the functions could not be considered on a ‘user pays principle’ but should be classified as activities ‘undertaken in the public interest’ which are to be fully funded from the Budget.


Thus, as was the situation prior to the creation of the Division of National Mapping, the Commonwealth Surveyor-General is again responsible for advising government on issues relating to surveying and mapping and representing the Commonwealth at survey and mapping forums.


The last National Mapping Council was held in 1986 and it ceased to formally exist when its prime functions were subsequently assumed by a new committee called the Inter Government Advisory Committee on Surveying and Mapping (IGACSM) which held its inaugural meeting in July 1988. Like the NMC, IGACSM was formally constituted by agreement between the Prime Minister, State Premiers and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. Perhaps the major difference between IGACSM and its predecessor is that the position of Chairman rotates biennially amongst members, thus giving the States equal status in matters related to national survey and mapping.




The author acknowledges with appreciation the assistance given by Bruce Willington, Peter O’Donnell and Laurie McLean in providing a valuable source of secondary information.





A.G. Bomford.  The Role of a National Mapping Organisation, Survey Review Vol XXV No 195 January 1980.


B.P. Lambert.  The National Mapping Council of Australia Forty Years On. The Australian Surveyor, Vol 32, No. 8, December 1985.


B.P. Lambert.  Geodetic Survey and Topographic Mapping in Australia. Circa 1968


B.P. Lambert.  Topographic Mapping in Australia – Development 1945-1975. Cartographic Conference, Adelaide 1976.


Brief History of Commonwealth Mapping Arrangements to 1964.  Anon.


Citation.  Mr B.P. Lambert. OBE.  The Institution of Surveyors, Australia.  Incorporated 1988.


Department of National Development.  Summary of Activities.  1963-65.


F.M. Johnston.  Knights and Theodolites – A Saga of Surveyors, Edwards & Shaw, Sydney 1962.


L.G. Turner.  Mapping Australia’s Continental Shelf, cica 1971.


New Director of National Mapping, Mr C. Veenstra.  Cartography – Vol 12, No. 4 September 1982.


The Canberra Times, Letters to the Editor, Mapping and Defence by B.P. Lambert,

14 August 1986.


The Canberra Times, Opinion, article by Waterford, 3 August, 1986.


The Canberra Times, Opinion, article by Waterford, 17 August, 1986.