At a glance

2 to 4 months
GovCMS, QuantCDN, Drupal
Federal government
Discovery & strategy, Design & user research, Build & migration, Hosting & maintenance, Technical advisory
GovTech, Whole of government, Civic tech, Open APIs, Web development, Headless CMS, Drupal Planet
Multidisciplinary teams, Agile delivery, Tools & systems, Security, Design, Open standards & common platforms, Open source

Geoscience Australia’s challenge

Geoscience Australia’s websites currently use different CMSs and technologies, and are hosted on a range of different infrastructures. Geoscience’s mandate “to support evidence-based decisions through information” is compromised due to technology fragmentation and barriers in discovery, management and correlation of data.  

Geoscience’s transformation

Through our creative partner, Salsa is working with Geoscience and GovCMS to pioneer new government digital platform approaches. Geoscience Australia’s Digital Earth Australia (DEA) site forms the pilot of a broader objective to generate efficiencies and savings for Geoscience Australia. The focus is on modern architectures to address the duplication of features, content, user experience, platform hosting, website maintenance, integration and other operational costs.  

The outcomes

  • A more customer-centric experience so it’s easier for citizens, industry and academia to discover and use Australian earth data 

  • Efficiencies and savings through consolidation 

  • High security and platform resilience through uplifting people (skills), process and technology

  • Introduction of static web and headless (decoupled) approaches  

“Salsa was flexible and responsive in collaborating with Geoscience Australia, Today Strategic Design and GovCMS to find an innovative and sustainable solution for our future platform needs.”

Alan Maskell
Manager, Projects
Corporate Division, Geoscience Australia

Geoscience Australia’s challenge — data management in a fragmented environment

Geoscience Australia is the custodian of Australian Earth Data. Part of its mandate is to support evidence-based decisions through information, advice and services for a strong economy, resilient society and sustainable environment. To best deliver on this mandate Geoscience Australia requires information that’s easily discoverable, discernible and consumed. Unfortunately, Geoscience Australia has a fragmented technical landscape with a mix of technologies, which hinders this mandate.

Geoscience Australia’s transformation — new generation architecture for DEA 

Salsa is working with Geoscience Australia, and GovCMS to pioneer new government digital platform approaches. Geoscience Australia’s Digital Earth Australia (DEA) site forms the pilot of a next-generation architecture with a broader objective to generate efficiencies and savings for Geoscience Australia via rollout of the architecture to all its digital assets. This more modern approach will enable better leverage of assets via more effective sharing and digestion of relevant earth data.

Salsa has used our position at the forefront of some of the largest digital programs within Australian government to introduce relevant parties into Geoscience Australia’s context.  For example Salsa’s relationships with the GovCMS program ( GovCMS) is being used to learn and exchange ideas and experiences. Salsa is also using proven models (headless CMS, decoupled UI, content API and technology stack based on Drupal, vue.js, nuxt) from Victoria’s Single Digital Presence ( SDP) in Geoscience Australia’s context. Salsa is also active in the and programs and offers this experience and insights to Geoscience Australia.

Next-generation platform

The next-generation platform provides both a standard backend editing experience, as well as a cohesive design system to ensure consistency across all sites. It also greatly lowers the barrier when new sites need to be created.

It’s based on technical approaches such as:

  • Headless — Content is maintained on a GovCMS (Drupal) environment and exposed via an API. This API is then fed into a design system (built with Vue.js) to render web content in a decoupled manner.

    This architecture allows the Drupal backend to run in a more secure context, as it doesn’t need to be exposed to the general public.

  • Static — The design system uses Nuxt.js to generate static output for the website data provided via the API. This output is then pushed to QuantCDN — a global edge engineered for the static web.

    Website visitors interact with this static output (e.g. the compiled HTML/CSS/JS), which represents the ultimate in security, performance and scalability.

    When content changes in the backend, the content is compiled and pushed to the static CDN, so it’s always up to date.


The DEA is paving the way for a broader rollout within Geoscience Australia.  For example the DEA site will be used to clone the next Geoscience Australia site (Exploring for the Future, EFTF). However, challenges remain which, while auxiliary to the technology, are significant and require careful consideration. These challenges include:

  • Change management — Adopting better technical approaches comes with change management considerations. It takes time, effort, patience and planning to bring significant numbers of stakeholders on the journey of consolidating a platform and program.

  • Resourcing models — Careful planning is needed to balance internal capabilities with outsourced or managed models to support new technologies and approaches.

  • Ownership and governance — Enterprise approaches require well-defined ownership and governance models and processes. 

Salsa and have experience with digital programs that have been through such transformation and offer this experience to help Geoscience Australia to navigate through challenges.

The outcomes — the pilot project proves consolidation potential

Key outcomes of the project include:

  • Lowering the barriers for citizens, industry and academia to discover, identify and consume Australian Earth data by creating customer-centric and innovative experience across Geoscience websites

  • Efficiencies and savings for Geoscience through deduplication of features, content, user experience, hosting, website maintenance and other operational costs

  • A high standard of security and platform resilience through uplifting people (skills), process and technology

  • Introduction of best-of-breed approaches to digital at scale, including static, headless and decoupled approaches, and connecting Geoscience with proven work programs employing such techniques at whole-of-government scale

About Geoscience Australia

Geoscience Australia is Australia's pre-eminent public sector geoscience organisation. It is the nation's trusted advisor on the geology and geography of Australia. It applies science and technology to describe and understand the Earth for the benefit of Australia.