When government departments don’t check their own work

June 5, 2014

One of the documents my authors cite and reference regularly is an Australian federal government plan for a designated marine region of Australia.

This plan was written by a federal government department in 2008 and I would imagine it went through many internal hands and stakeholders’ hands before being signed off by the Minister for the Environment at the time.

So why, oh why, did a fundamental and glaring error of fact slip through all those checks and balances? It’s in the map below, and yes, that fuzziness is in the original report (it’s on p23 of http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/2e286b1a-c6e2-4e3d-95cf-c98a8dea60fd/files/bioregional-profile.pdf):


For those of you not familiar with Australia, here the errors I noticed on first seeing this map:

  • This one is the worst error! Timor-Leste (i.e. East Timor) is NOT part of Australia. It is a separate country located on an island north-west of Darwin (approx. where ‘OP’ is pointing on the map), not in the desert between Darwin and Alice Springs! This is the worst of the errors as it’s just plain wrong.
  • Sumatra and Java are islands in Indonesia, not separate countries as implied by the map. These labels might be acceptable IF ‘Indonesia’ was not also plainly labelled on the island of New Guinea (top right corner). As an editor, I would have queried this naming inconsistency.
  • South Indian Current: I haven’t found much reference to this name. ‘South Indian Ocean Current’, yes, but not ‘South Indian Current’. It’s location would be more indicative of ‘Southern Indian Ocean’. As an editor, I would have queried this.
  • I would have also queried the clarity of this image as it’s very poor.

There’s just no excuse for these sorts of error, or for the poor quality of the map’s reproduction in the PDF. If they can’t afford full-time editors, there are plenty of contractors they could hire for one-off reports like these.

[Link last checked June 2014]



  1. You said that the map was the work of a “government agency,” right? That explains everything.

  2. sad to say in South Africa with multiple official languages it becomes a nightmare

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