Vale: Bruce Thompson, visionary spatial leader

By on 27 October, 2021

Bruce Thompson served as a leader, mentor and innovator across Australia’s spatial sector. Image courtesy CSIRO.

The Australian spatial community has lost one of its giants with the passing on 10 October 2021 of Bruce Thompson, Executive Director of Spatial Services with the NSW Department of Customer Service.

Bruce was farewelled by family, friends and colleagues at Bathurst Cemetery on 18 October. Amongst those in attendance was Victor Dominello, NSW Minister for Customer Service; Department of Customer Service Secretary, Emma Hogan; GCIDO, Greg Wells; NSW Surveyor-General, Narelle Underwood; and Director of Spatial Operations, Wayne Patterson.

Bruce had spent more than 30 years in the spatial sector, primarily in the Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales governments, including for a period as Chair of the Australia New Zealand Land Information Council (ANZLIC).

In a statement posted on LinkedIn by DCS Spatial Services, Bruce was described as “the architect and leader of many successful endeavours” who “had a significant impact on the public sector at jurisdictional and Commonwealth levels”.

“His impact on the spatial industry, particularly at DCS Spatial Services, will be enduring especially his work developing the vision and support for the NSW Spatial Digital Twin… which will deliver many benefits across government, industry and to the community.”

“His many achievements include Victoria’s nation-leading implementation of a fully operational CORS network, known as Vicmap Position – GPSnet. Another was a key early role in conceiving the concept of a data cube that, after several iterations and 10 years, became Digital Earth Australia at Geoscience Australia.”

“Bruce was a strategic thinker, a visionary who was brilliant, innovative and ahead of his time. While he was dedicated to his work, his lasting legacy is that of a leader who cared about the people he worked with, whose kindness, friendship and sense of humour will be missed.”

Among his many achievements, Bruce established the Victorian Mapping and Address Service, Victoria’s first spatial web services environment for delivery of spatial services for the both public and private sectors. And he developed and delivered the National Address Management Framework, a core policy and standards component underpinning the utilisation of spatial information.

Between 1999 and 2003, Bruce served as Deputy Director, Land Information Group, in the Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment. From 2003 to 2010 he served as Director, Spatial Information Infrastructure, with the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, and from January 2011 to April 2013 served as Chief Information Officer for that same department.

From April 2013 to January 2015, Bruce served as Deputy Secretary Corporate Services with the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries. Then from January 2015 to March 2016 he was General Manager Land Services with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

His final position, from August 2016, was Executive Director, Spatial Services, in what is now the NSW Department of Customer Service.

“Apart from all of Bruce’s professional achievements and successes, Bruce always made time for the people he worked with,” said Wayne Patterson, Director Spatial Operations in the Department of Customer Service. “One of life’s true gentlemen he has empowered so many across the spatial industry with the knowledge, opportunities and environment to succeed and grow. We have lost a great leader and visionary whose legacy will live on.”

“I had the privilege of working alongside Bruce for over 20 years, first in Land Victoria and then as our respective State’s representatives on ANZLIC, PSMA, the CRC-SI and numerous other spatial initiatives,” said Steven Jacoby, Executive Director of Spatial Information in the Queensland Department of Resources.

“Bruce was unique, always interested in ideas irrespective of who had them, a great communicator adept at describing future visions one moment and solving immediate problems the next,” added Jacoby. “Always the smartest person in the room, yet I can’t recall Bruce taking credit for anything, it was always the team’s doing. A great role model not just for the spatial industry, but a trusted colleague and friend impossible to replace.”

Bruce received a number of awards throughout his career, including:

  • 2006 Victorian Spatial Professional of the year
  • 2006 Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards: Spatial Professional of the Year
  • 2006 Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) Exemplary Systems in Government Award: Victorian Mapping and Address Service
  • 2005 Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards: JK Barrie Award for spatial excellence, Victorian Mapping and Address Service
  • 2004 Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) Exemplary Systems in Government Award: Vicmap Topographic

Leading the tributes on LinkedIn was Victor Dominello, who wrote simply: “A true visionary. A humble leader. A great legacy. Vale.”

Melissa Harris, Chief Executive of Land Use Victoria and Chair of ANZLIC wrote that “Bruce was an inspiring and influential leader and a wonderful and supportive colleague who was very passionate and knowledgeable about all things spatial and innovation. As former chair and deputy chair of ANZLIC and long term member, he provided outstanding national leadership over many years and his significant contributions to our country’s geospatial capability are too numerous to mention. His legacy is vast and enduring and he will be greatly missed.”

Graeme Kernich, CEO at FrontierSI, described Bruce as a “truly humble, respectful and thoughtful person. A visionary and bold thinker and innovator. A supportive colleague and leader.”

Brian Nicholls, Director at the World Geospatial Industry Council (WGIC), wrote that “Bruce’s contribution to the Spatial Sector across Australia and New Zealand has been enormous. Bruce was a great leader and supporter of individuals working in our sector. Bruce will be sorely missed.”

Muhammad Usman Iqbal, Senior Associate Manager with the Government of Abu Dhabi, wrote that “His impact was not just local to [the] Australia Spatial Industry but also global. He offered great advice to Abu Dhabi 3D initiatives as well.”

Bruce is survived by his wife, Susan. A fundraiser has been set up for the Smith Family charity in memory of Bruce, which can be reached via https://events.thesmithfamily.com.au/fundraisers/BruceThompson/our-friend-and-colleague-bruce-thompson.

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