MSIA History 1988 - 2012


The Mapping Sciences Institute, Australia – A Brief History


Formation and Early Development


The Mapping Sciences Institute, Australia began life in 1952 as the Australian Institute of Cartographers. Although AIC was incorporated in Victoria, under Victorian law, it was a national organisation and achieved its growth through the establishment of “Divisions” in the States and Territories. The first of these was the Victorian Division (1953) followed by NSW (1954) and the ACT in the following year. Much later, when the Northern Territory Division began operating in 1985, the national coverage was complete. However, the Western Australia case was unique. Here, the Institute of Cartographers, Western Australia, had been formed in 1951 before the advent of the AIC and their amalgamation did not take place until 1970.


The Divisions operated to a large extent independently of each other, but the National Council, comprising representatives from all Divisions, met twice a year to determine policy.




A normal function of each Division was to distribute its own newsletter to its members, but as far back as 1954, the journal “Cartography” was issued nationally. This has continued to be produced uninterrupted until the present time, although its name was changed to “Journal of Spatial Science” in 2004.




Divisions showed considerable enterprise in arranging seminars, workshops and technical visits for the professional development of their members. Then, in 1974, the national Council sponsored the first of what was to become an unbroken program of biennial Australian Cartographic Conferences.


Involvement in the International Cartographic Association


Australia, represented by the AIC, was admitted as a member of the International Cartographic Association in 1964. Byrne Goodrick, of the ACT Division was elected as a Vice President in 1980 and Don Pearce of our Western Australian Division became its Secretary-Treasurer in 1984 and continued in this role for many years. Numerous other members have led or served on various Commissions and Working Groups.


The highlight of our involvement was the staging of the International Cartographic Conference in Perth in 1984.


More recently, our Professor William Cartwright held the position of ICA President from 2007 to 2011.



Interaction with Similar Organisations


The AIC always had a close relationship with the Institution of Surveyors, Australia, with many members having dual membership. The relationship culminated with the holding of a joint national conference in Canberra in 1982. We have also maintained close ties with the Australian Map Circle (now the Australian and New Zealand Map Society) and recently with the International Map Traders Association. Joint national conferences have been conducted with both.


MSIA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute, pledging mutual support.


Name Change


With the aim of broadening the membership-base and to circumvent the perceived ambiguity of “cartography”, the name of the Institute was changed to “Mapping Sciences Institute, Australia” – in 1995.


Loss of Divisions


In 1994, the Tasmanian Division advised Council that it was unable to continue to operate, because of their inability to attract office-bearers. The Victorian Division took responsibility for the Tasmanian members and was re-named the Victorian/Tasmanian Division.


Subsequently, the Divisions in Western Australia, South Australia and the ACT ceased to operate and members in these jurisdictions are the responsibility of the national Executive.


Proposed Amalgamation


In 2001, MSIA, the Australasian Urban and Regional Information Systems Association, the Institution of Surveyors, Australia, the Institution of Engineering and Mining Surveyors and the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Association formed a “coalition” to consider and recommend on the possible amalgamation of the five organisations.


In 2003, the coalition conducted a ballot of all members, asking them to agree to a proposal to the transfer of members and assets of the separate organisations to a proposed new body to be known as the Spatial Sciences Institute. Legal advice provided to MSIA was that the resultant vote in favour should not be acted on because it was conducted outside the ambit of our Constitution. Acting on further legal advice, the Council resolved to continue to operate until all or most members resigned or were struck off.




Ten Years On


Almost exactly ten years after Council decided that we had an obligation to our members to continue to exist, MSIA is still performing most of its traditional role.


In the last decade we have presented four national conferences, mostly in association with other organisations which has had the beneficial effect of broadening the technical content and enhanced the social aspect. We continue to provide members with regular issues of the Journal of Spatial Science, albeit in partnership with the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute, and have introduced an online periodical called “Cartography” which is a digest of cartographic developments worldwide. A national newsletter “MSI-Connected” is distributed monthly, in both electronic and print form. We are still involved in ICA, with Professor Cartwright as Immediate Past President and two Councillors playing leading roles on the Commission on Education and Training.


While Divisions have mostly closed down or are in a moribund state, the NSW Division is flourishing and continues to present an annual seminar.


A trickle of new members is occurring and our financial situation is fairly robust.


The National Council meets annually and while its membership is fairly static, an occasional new recruit is welcomed.


There is no sign of imminent closure of the sixty-year-old MSIA.




Read the full account from 1988 to 2012 in the article below.




Author: Keith Smith

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