In a world first, Geoscience Australia has painted an Indigenous artwork on its satellite antenna as part of a major upgrade – making the Alice Springs antenna unique in more ways than one.
The upgraded Alice Springs antenna was commissioned today in a ceremony highlighting both the antenna's key role in the United States Landsat program, and the artwork painted on its surface that recognises the Arrernte people as traditional custodians of the land.
Geoscience Australia's CEO, Dr Chris Pigram, hosted the event in Parliament House in Canberra where he was joined by Arrernte artist Roseanne Kemarre Ellis and representatives from the Centre for Appropriate Technology Ltd (CAT) and the Desert Peoples Centre.
"In 1979 Alice Springs was chosen to host the Landsat Ground Station because of its position in the centre of Australia. Some 37 years on, the antenna is still receiving critical data from international satellites, and with this $4 million upgrade it can now send commands to US Landsat satellites, making it one of only three in the world with this capability," Dr Pigram said.
"The size of the continent means Australian communities rely on satellite imagery for a range of critical tasks; it is used to respond to natural disasters, monitor land use, develop agriculture and ensure our water security."
Aboriginal not for profit company, CAT, project managed the antenna's upgrade, which according to CAT's Chairman, Peter Renehan, was a natural transition.
"We've built a very strong relationship with Geoscience Australia and I think what this project can show to the rest of Australia is that professional, locally-based Aboriginal organisations are capable and you can get these outcomes," Peter Renehan said.
CAT worked with the Desert Peoples Centre and Arrernte artist, Roseanne Kemarre Ellis, to commission the artwork and adapt it to apply to the antenna.
"For me what ties this project together is that Aboriginal art is like a depiction of the land and Aboriginal people do have an aerial view when they paint their art, when they're talking about their country and what it means to them. So there is a connection to the art and the satellite imagery," Peter Renehan said.
"Having the artwork on the antenna means a lot to Aboriginal people here in Alice, particularly our Board and the Council of Batchelor Institute and the other like-minded organisations on the site. It's a stamp for us to say this is Aboriginal country."
The antenna was formally commissioned this morning by Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan, who recognised the important role of the facility in supporting international satellite programs since its construction.