Women of innovation dominate at Locate16

By on 19 April, 2016

Dr Catherine Ball’s opening plenary was perhaps the standout presentation of the entire event


Nineteen of the presenters at last week’s Locate conference were women, showcasing the tremendous value that women have in the spatial and surveying industries, as well as the viability of STEM careers more broadly. Locate16 is the national conference of the spatial and surveying professions of Australia and New Zealand, showcasing the most cutting-edge spatial technologies and in 2016 attracted almost 500 attendees.

While it’s impossible to cover all of the insights of all the presenters, below are highlights from just some of the extraordinary women who were part of Locate16.


Dr Catherine Ball

Dr Ball’s opening plenary was perhaps the standout presentation of the entire event and inspired delegates to the point that they were talking about it for the remaining two days. Dr Ball is a Telstra Business Women of the Year award winning innovator of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) with a background in spatial information and ecology. As part of Elemental Strategy, Dr Ball now consults internationally to governments and private industry not just on drones, but on all elements of technological adoption.

Her impressive plenary highlighted the huge growth the RPAS industry is facing. If you don’t have any shares in a drone company, then she highly recommends that you buy some, since last year over half a billion dollars of venture capital was invested into commercial drone companies. However, Ball’s messages were applicable to all types of data managers, suggesting we need a twitter for spatial data so everybody can find the information they need instantly, and an Australian supercomputer dedicated to process the ever-increasing drone data. She was disappointed to note that as far as she is aware, she is the only woman in Australia operating a drone business. However it’s safe to say Catherine Ball will go on to inspire other women to follow in her footsteps.

Position magazine featured an exclusive interview with Catherine Ball, which can now be read online.


Helen Owens

Locate attendees were lucky enough to have a distinguished MC, Helen Owens, of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Owens joined the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as the Principal Advisor for Public Data Policy on 22 October 2015 and her insights allowed her to guide the audience through each of the inspiring plenaries. Her keynote ”Building a World Class Public Data Infrastructure,” highlighted the federal government’s recent initiatives for open data, which culminated earlier this year in the release of PSMA’s national address data, G-NAF.


Denise McKenzie

Coming from the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), McKenzie is somewhat of an expert when it comes to open data standards. Her talk focussed on what is happening in the world of IoT (Internet of Things) standards and how the geospatial component will enable smart cities. Her suggestion that we’ve been dealing with sensors for much longer than the term IoT has existed, places spatial professionals at the forefront of this technology. Using the example of the ‘internet of babies’ and how almost everything can be monitored (and hacked), open standards are a critical part of what will make up our future society.


Andrea McDonald

As Deputy Chief Executive at Land Information New Zealand, Andrea McDonald’s presentation highlighted the tremendous overhauls undertaken in the wake of the devastating earthquakes that struck the Canterbury region of New Zealand in 2010 and 2011. Since then McDonald has been involved in a number of Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) related projects that were established to help assist and accelerate the rebuild process. Of her lesson learnt is the process, she revealed that above all else, implementing SDI’s in the end is all about people.


Katie Dick

From Spatial Vision, Katie Dick’s project “Victorian Women’s Health Atlas” used spatial analysis to uncover the burden that domestic violence has in women in Victoria, as well as the distribution of depression and anxiety. Among the many findings of the project were the striking gender imbalances that adversely affect women’s health in the region. The success of the project shows the viability of such an approach, which should be considered by other agencies the world over dealing with women’s health.


Alison Rose

As the Assistant Secretary of GEOINT Foundation and Support, Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), Rose’s plenary highlighted the extents to which spatial analysis can be taken. While unfortunately she could not indicate specifics of AGO’s operations due to their intrinsically sensitive nature, it is apparent that under Rose’s guidance, Australia’s geospatial intelligence is in good hands.


Libby Hillman

Finally, Libby Hillman, Executive Officer of the Geography Teachers’ Association of Victoria, is working hard to give school students the chance to achieve all that the above mentioned women have so boldly done. In her Keynote, Hillman alongside Cory Bixler, explored the diverse opportunities of the industry and the barriers to undertake tertiary studies and employment in the sector. As a founding member of educational initiative, Destination Spatial, and participant of a number of other successful educational initiatives, Hillman showed that there is hope that even more women like those represented in this article will rightfully come into prominence. If you are interested in a career in spatial, please visit Destination Spatial.


This is just a subset of the many amazing women who were part of Locate16.

Keep a watch of Spatial Source and the upcoming issue of Position for a more detailed wrap up of the Locate16.



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