IBA Media Release - Australia's First Indigenous Earth Ground Station

IBA Media Release - Australia's First Indigenous Earth Ground Station

Posted 10 June 2019
  • Multimillion dollar earth ground station to be built in Alice Springs, Northern Territory
  • First development of its kind on Aboriginal owned land in Australia
  • Facility expected to bring new jobs and economic opportunities to remote Australia
  • Indigenous Australians to be leading participants in global satellite and space industry

Photo: Geoscience Australia; painted by local Arrente artist Roseanne Kenmarre Ellis

Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) will fund Australia’s first earth ground station built and owned by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander company.

Global communications company Viasat Inc. has partnered with Aboriginal not-for-profit science and technology company Centre for Appropriate Technology Ltd (CfAT) to launch a Real-Time Earth (RTE) facility in Alice Springs. CfAT will build and own the facility through its wholly owned commercial subsidiary CfAT Satellite Enterprises Pty Ltd.

The multimillion dollar investment in Alice Springs enables Central Australia to be a key player in the global satellite and space industry and Indigenous Australians to be leading participants in the sector. The investment is also strongly aligned with the priorities for the Australian Space Agency.

The facility will be used to track the next generation of low earth orbiting satellites for earth observation used for scientific research, environmental monitoring, and commercial applications.

CfAT Chairperson Peter Renehan said, ‘This facility brings together our mission of engagement and people, innovation and excellence – and puts Aboriginal people at the forefront of Australia’s growing space sector.

‘This state-of-the-art development will provide a positive contribution to the local economy through employment opportunities for local businesses during each phase of construction as well as ongoing jobs for local Aboriginal people once operational.

‘CfAT exists to provide people in regional and remote Australia with options for maintaining their relationship with country. We do this by providing technologically innovative solutions to infrastructure challenges with digital connectivity as a core focus of the companies work.

According to a KPMG report, ‘Unlocking the potential of the “Indigenous Estate”’, across the Australian landmass, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people own or have controlling interests in about 40 per cent of the Australian land mass under various forms of title and legislation.

IBA Chairperson Eddie Fry emphasised the importance of this opportunity for both the Australian space industry and the Indigenous community.

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people own or control significant areas of land in remote areas where there is limited economic potential. This first of its kind development on Aboriginal land gives the community both economic and social returns.

‘The global space industry is growing rapidly, and this is creating demand for access to land for satellite communications infrastructure, particularly in Australia where there are large areas of strategically located land with clear skies and low radio interference.

‘Not only will this facility generate commercial returns and jobs for Indigenous Australians, it will create wider commercial opportunities for the local economy. CfAT will invest in training Aboriginal people in maintaining the facility and build its capacity for bringing innovative programs to Aboriginal people in the region.

‘The location in Alice Springs is an optimal environment for this type of technology due to the large number of days that are cloud-free, limited radio interference, and access to fibre network on the grounds. This is just the beginning and we can see CfAT expanding operations and including more facilities like this one in the future.

‘Earth observation is a fast-growing market globally. We see a significant growth rate over the next ten years. IBA believes the space sector will continue to open up new opportunities for commercial participation by Indigenous people in Australia, where many groups are well-placed to leverage their land assets.’

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt AM said developments such as this showcased how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people could continue leading roles in our nation’s innovation, as they have done for more than 60,000 years.

‘Indigenous Australians hold a powerful economic force through their connections with land, culture and community,” Minister Wyatt said.

‘This exciting project is a prime example of the power of country to help deliver commercial returns through technology, employment and career opportunities.’

Media contact: Tara Toohill 02 9207 6362 or tara.toohill@iba.gov.au

About IBA
IBA is a commercially focused organisation. Economic independence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is at the heart of what we do. Our programs assist Indigenous Australians to buy their own homes, be successful in business, and invest in commercial ventures that provide strong financial returns. IBA is established under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (ATSI Act) and is a corporate Commonwealth entity for the purposes of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). IBA resides in the portfolio of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and is accountable to the Australian Parliament through the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

About CfAT Ltd
CfAT is an Aboriginal company, with 50% Aboriginal workforce, established in the 1980’s, that operates across regional and remote Australia delivering infrastructure and technology solutions mostly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, providing service and infrastructure platforms that allow people to maintain their relationship with country. The company’s approach is driven by the view that the successful delivery of services and the technologies and infrastructure used to achieve them will be different to the way things are done in urban Australia. This has shaped our success and led to the development of highly innovative new technologies.

About Viasat
Viasat is a global communications company that believes everyone and everything in the world can be connected. For more than 30 years, Viasat has helped shape how consumers, businesses, governments and militaries around the world communicate. Today, the Company is developing the ultimate global communications network to power high-quality, secure, affordable, fast connections to impact people's lives anywhere they are—on the ground, in the air or at sea.