GovHack 2015 Year in Review

TL;DR version

GovHack 2015 was awesome and continues to be Australia’s biggest civic hacking community event that brings together. This year New Zealand joined in and the Red Carpet Event was super shiny. Videos and photos are available below, and we encourage you to browse the winners and the hacks from the weekend, also sorted by prize category. If you want to help us make it more awesome, please take a few minutes to:

The GovHack team continues to be focused on an annual non-profit event that supports community development, opens up data and brings governments together with citizens and the private sector. Some of the projects over the weekend go on to be living projects, but the greatest benefits of GovHack are the growth of the civic hacker community, skills, capability, improved access to government data and a sandbox to work in multidisciplinary teams to make a better world. We want to work with other communities, hackfests, incubators, startup initiatives and more to grow this capability in Australia and see hacker and maker culture proliferate all sectors and the entire community.

If you are interested in sponsoring GovHack 2016 please get in touch. We’ll be putting a call out for volunteers for local events in early 2016 and if you are interested in joining the national team, please let us know!

2015 Overview

GovHack is a volunteer run international competition and community development event, which brings together technology creatives and innovators from the private, public and government sectors with government data to explore and discover new ways to help create a better society. In 46 hours hackers form teams, identify problems to solve, build working prototypes, publish their code as open source, and make a short video showing what they did and why. Projects can include web, mobile or augmented reality applications, data visualisations, new analysis or even 3D printed ways to understand data and patterns.

Key benefits of GovHack include community building, skills and capability development, and exploring how cross sector collaboration is critical for innovation by getting government in the room with civic hackers from industry, academia and the general public. But the main reason people participate in GovHack is because our community loves to learn, share and make awesome stuff.

GovHack is about hacking in the positive sense, civic hacking for a better world.

Over the years GovHack has inspired governments across Australia to improve how they deliver their data, to make it easier to understand how governments use their revenues, and to focus more attention on delivering citizen centric services. More importantly, it has provided a sandbox to engage with  the community and private sector to develop skills, capability and a new way of working across the community.

In 2015 the GovHack competition weekend was held from July 3-5, followed by weeks of intense judging, and the GovHack Red Carpet Awards at the Powerhouse Museum on September 5 with civic hackers, sponsors, VIPs and media all celebrating the awesome creativity of our community.

Beyond the numbers, we had a some of the most innovative project submissions so far including prototypes to map commuter density on trains, policy assessments of gender inequality in pay gaps, and of course new ways to make democracy engaging through games, analysis and data visualisation.

2015 by the numbers

It was a year of firsts, most significantly with New Zealand joining the party. GovHack has grown year on year since becoming a community driven initiative in 2012, with 2015 culminating across 31 locations and over 2200 competitors and observers in two nations. We had our biggest supporter base to date, and the most project submissions as well.

By the numbers GovHack 2015 had 2200 participants and observers, 31 events across 22 cities in 2 countries, 30 national government and corporate supporters, 100 local supporters for events, 270 completed projects, and over $300k in international, national and local prize funding, as well as various mentorship and co-working placement prizes. Government participation was strong with 14 Australian federal agencies, 6 State/Territory Governments, 3 New Zealand agencies and a cluster of Local Councils across Australia and New Zealand! Over the course of the weekend GovHack generated about 80,000 hours in R&D from over 2000 civic hackers focused on how to make the world a better place.

We had over 160 awesome volunteers who made the event what it is who brought their own unique spin to each event, and provided supportive environment filled with coffee and sustenance to help the hackers make it through the weekend.

<<photo of all local event reps at the Awards to come>>

The National GovHack team then funded 100 team representatives to go to the GovHack Red Carpet Awards in Sydney to celebrate the event and announce the winners. It was an incredible night with hackers rubbing shoulders with VIPs and sponsors, and showing off our community talent.

Over the course of a few months between GovHack and the Red Carpet Awards we had over 100 media articles and interviews around Australia and New Zealand.

Lastly, we had a core national team of 11 which worked tireless for 336 days to coordinate national sponsorship, the national competition, support for local teams, media, and making sure civic hackers everywhere would have an amazing experience.

GovHack 2015 Red Carpet Awards 


GovHack is, above all else, a diverse community dedicated to continually improving democracy. It is about bringing together and continually developing that community to combine and apply their skills to solve problems that can make a difference or solve a problem in a novel way. Competitors love the opportunity to learn alongside their peers in a fun competitive but collaborative environment. Each year our hacker survey consistently identifies two key reasons why the GovHack community continues to grow. Fun and professional development. Through establishing multi-disciplinary teams the hackers have an opportunity to get hands on experience working across a range of areas, which often in the workplace can be difficult to replicate. The volunteers who run the local events are also critical and provide a unique outcome for the overall event. They match their events to the local communities. While GovHack 2015 had overarching International and National Prizes, each location had specific focuses.


300 projects were submitted this year in response to the competition.

The Australian national categories of Transformation, Disaster Management, Data Journalism, Digital Humanities, Open Government, Policy Insights, and Entrepreneurism were supported by 14 bounties and 4 team prizes, open to all competitors across the Australian competition. The bounty category was a new introduction this year, and was received well. It provided hackers with the opportunity to chase specific prize(s) even if it didn’t relate to one of the main categories. It also provided our government supporters with a unique opportunity to highlight a key dataset or problem and have that available to all competitors, not just in the major category they were supporting.

The New Zealand National competition was smaller, but had an amazing first year with 6 national categories. All competitors across Australia and New Zealand were also eligible for Local competition prizes, which vary from location to location. The Local and National “Spirit of GovHack” awards, are presented to teams or individuals that exemplify the best community spirit and civic hacker ethos. While it’s difficult to tell so early on which projects will grow into something bigger.

All the winners for GovHack 2015 are listed and linked from the 2015 Winners page and we recommend you check them all out! Below is a playlist of the youtube videos as a bit of a teaser (note, not all projects used youtube to submit their videos).

The National team thought we would highlight a few outstanding projects we thought were worth checking out.

IoTransport – IoT device that estimates passenger density based on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The real world application of this will help shape how WA commuters plan when and which routes they take when using the train system. Transport applications have generated 5000 jobs in the UK.

Question Time: A game of policy – Gamification is the learning of the future. Question time provide a great way to engage with youth about subject matter (which to some) could be a little dull. – visualises the patent process and explores the patents that lie behind many inventions.

Grassroots engagement

GovHack is a great weekend for our community to get together, learn, share and show off. But there are also important opportunities for corporate and government supporters which see GovHack as a friendly way to directly engage with the community. This year our government supporters went all out. The Australian Bureau of Statistics had a team of 30 spread across Australia mentoring and collecting feedback about the data made available. Geoscience Australia rallied the Canberra event the whole weekend, and National and State Libraries Australasia held a commemorative WWI hack. Western Australian Government was recognised for its dedication to developing a more democratic and innovative country with the launch of their Open Data policy at GovHack 2015. We had our first corporate sponsored international prizes which provided Ancestry and IAG an opportunity to directly support their key areas of interest, digital humanities and disaster management. Both companies used GovHack to identify new ways of delivering their business, and as an opportunity to learn how open collaboration could help their business grow. Three supporters used GovHack as an opportunity to scout for new talent by attending events and watching the work of the teams. A fourth, the DTO, very publicly used GovHack as a platform to call out for hackers to come and apply to work with the new government startup. Please note, the GovHack volunteers take care to maintain the privacy of all participants.

The GovHack DataRater

In 2014 we added a GovHack DataRater so teams could give us feedback on the data they used. This year we provided the platform for feedback again. The best rated data so far has come from Adelaide City Council and Ergon Energy but we need your input to help improve all the government data used in the competition! What do you get in return? A pony of course! Detailed feedback will be given back to data custodians in early 2016, anonymised of course, to help them improve the quality of their data for everyone, so please take a few minutes to do the DataRater Survey!   

Red Carpet Awards

Since it’s inception in 2014, the Red Carpet Awards have become a key activity to acknowledge the hard work of all involved in GovHack including the competition’s winners. This year’s speakers raised the importance of grassroots events like GovHack as part of the wider innovation environment in Australia, as well as driving better engagement between governments and their public.

“My point is, we need to do better in that space because innovation across all sectors of industry is the way of the future for this country. Tonight, for me, is a fantastic opportunity to meet so many people who are at the leading edge of ideas and of collaboration to promote innovation.” Minister the Hon Arthur Sinodinos

The entire event was live streamed and is available online for you to watch.


Held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, and MC’d by David Bartlett, former Premier of Tasmania, the awards was full to bursting point with 280 hackers, tech enthusiasts, supporters and industry leaders. The diverse audiences ranged from New Zealand high school students to software engineers, through to industry representation including:

  • Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos,
  • NSW Minister for Innovation Victor Dominello,
  • Australian Government Chief Technology Officer John Sheridan,
  • CEO of the Digital Transformation Office Paul Shetler, and
  • Director Federal Government Telstra Chris Lowe.

There was also a guest video appearance from then Minister for Communication and now Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

See more photos at and

Of the National Prizes and honors recognised on the night, the Capital hackers took home a lion’s share of 11, Victoria took home 8, South Australia with 7, followed by West Australia, New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, and Tasmania. <<Embed photos from this year via flickr>> The awards have quickly become a key element of GovHack’s success, providing an opportunity for supporters and industry to meet with hackers to discuss the realities of the problems government and the public face.

Hack Longevity

GovHack is an annual weekend followed by an awards night. We encourage teams that participate to get involved in the community on an ongoing basis, whether it be their local maker space, open source project or open knowledge chapter. We also encourage interested teams to check out the broader startup and incubator landscape if they are interested in taking their hacks professional.

We try to maintain a Hack Longevity page to support teamsto go on to community or/and professional pathways from GovHack and we are always looking for organisations to collaborate with. Our goal is for GovHack to help grow the ecosystem in Australia.


Finally, but most importantly, there are some big thank yous. GovHack 2015 could not have been a shadow of the success it was without the dedication, hard work and general awesomeness of our volunteers, sponsors, and government participants!

The volunteers!

The GovHack National team did the national coordination, competition coordination, Hackerspace platform development and management, national corporate and government sponsors coordination, national media and participant communications, mentor coordination and we also ran the Canberra GovHack local event. A huge thank you to each member of the National team!

  • Geoff Mason – chief cat wrangler, a big job and Geoff did remarkably!
  • Cherie Ellis – chief New Zealand cat wrangler, with a great team of supporters!
  • Alysha Thomas – deputy cat wrangler, communications, also the SA Unleashed Coordinator!
  • Richard Tubb – Host & Team Support – a vital part of the team as he provided coordination and support to all the local event organisers and teams
  • Jan Bryson and Nadine Lee – National and local sponsorship liaison and Red Carpet Awards coordination. A huge job this year!
  • Sharen Scott – government liaison, herder of government cats and support throughout the process
  • Keith Moss – geek support and hacker comms, developer kit
  • Alex Sadleir – open data geek, developer kit, hackerspace support and ad hoc tech requests
  • Diana Ferry – schwag and shiny wrangler, general support and maker of great things (eg, certificates)
  • Pia Waugh – sponsor liaison, government whisperer, ninja
  • Gavin Tapp – video guru, venue magician
  • Steve De Costa – Hackerspace, website, AWS tech support
  • The teams at Linux Australia and NICTA for the incredible administrative, insurance and logistics support!
  • A special mention to Anne-Marie Elias who provided a huge amount of additional support in the lead up the Red Carpet Awards!

We had 31 volunteer teams around Australia and New Zealand who ran unique and locally crafted events. Those teams had a lot of people on the ground helping out, so a huge shoutout to everyone! The GovHack National team would like to give a special thank you to the key organisers in each location:

  • Sheece Gardezi from Canberra
  • Thai Huynh from Sydney
  • Katherina Drinkuth from Brisbane
  • Jolon Faichney from Gold Coast
  • David Masefield from Toowoomba
  • Shaun Boote from Adelaide
  • Jonny Scholes from Hobart
  • James Riggall from Launceston
  • George Fong from Ballarat
  • Kathy Reid from Geelong
  • Jordan Wilson-Otto from Melbourne
  • Tamryn Barker from Perth
  • Vivid Savitri from Camperdown
  • Ivan Ghirlanda from Manly
  • Andrew Perry from Parramatta
  • Louise Denoon from Sydney
  • Andy Ektoros from Werrington
  • Anne Lawrence from Sunshine Coast
  • Vicki Hutchinson from Mount Gambier
  • Bridget Coulter from Onkapringa
  • Daina Pocius from Playford
  • Meead Saberi from Clayton
  • Athina Mavromataki from Melbourne CBD
  • Peter Harrison from Auckland
  • Phil Wheeler from Dunedin
  • David Nichols from Hamilton
  • Mike Riversdale from Wellington
  • Marianne Archibald from Whanganui
  • Nick Williamson from Whangarei

There were also over 20 national Mentors and data custodians as well as dozens of local mentors who selflessly helped teams around the country! Thank you every one of you for your expertise and support!  

The Sponsors

A final and huge thankyou to all our international, national and local sponsors, without whom GovHack could never feed, water and provide bandwidth or prizes to so many people! A big thank you to Australian and New Zealand national and local sponsors and supporters of the competition.

The inaugural International sponsors were:

  • Ancestry, Google & IAG

The Australian national sponsors were:

  • Lead Agency: the Digital Transformation Office
  • Lead Sponsor: Telstra
  • Platinum Sponsors: Frame/HP, Microsoft & Splunk
  • Silver Sponsors:
    • Acquia
    • Australian Computer Society
    • Australian Information Industry Association
    • Amazon Web Services
    • Computer Power Institute
    • DLA Piper
    • Newcast
    • NICTA and the eGov Cluster
    • Link Digital
    • Linux Australia
  • National Agency Sponsors:
    • Australian Taxation Office
    • ABC
    • Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
    • Australian Bureau of Statistics
    • CSIRO
    • Department of Industry and Science
    • IP Australia
    • Geoscience Australia
    • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
    • Department of Finance
    • Department of Communications
    • National and State Libraries Australasia, the State Library of NSW and the National Archives of Australia

The New Zealand National Sponsors were:

  • Titanium Sponsor: HP
  • Silver Sponsors: Statistics New Zealand and CallaghanInnovation
  • Web Services Sponsors: Amazon Web Services and Catalyst IT
  • National Sponsors:
    • Intergraph
    • BizSpark (Microsoft)

All Local Sponsors can be found at the local event pages for Australia and on the New Zealand sponsors page.

Red Carpet Awards

The Red Carpets Awards in Sydney were held at the Powerhouse Museum, who went above and beyond being a venue sponsor to provide an incredible venue with a personal touch including the GovHack logo projected on the wall and GovHack colours throughout the venue along with incredible catering and AV support. Thank you! And also to Fishburners who helped set up the Powerhouse Museum support. A big thankyou also to David Bartlett for being an incredible MC for the night and to the various VIPs who came along to share their thoughts on the night, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (by video), Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos, NSW Minister for Innovation Victor Dominello, Paul Shetler from the DTO and Chris Lowe from Telstra!

GovHack 2015 - Red Carpet Awards

Local event quotes

With so many locations involved this year, we had great feedback from local organisers.

Cherie Ellis: (New Zealand national organiser): 2015 saw GovHack come accross the ditch to New Zealand, and we did ourselves proud! We put together 7 events in total, including a junior hacking event that is going onwards with 2 more code camps through the year. I was proud to be involved and thrilled to see the calibre presented by the New Zealand teams. 2015 was a great start to NZ’s GovHack involvement and I can’t wait to see how we go in 2016!

James Riggall (Launceston): 2015 was the first year that GovHack ran in Launceston and we couldn’t have been happier with how the event went. We had around 30 hackers in attendance, spread across 6 teams and with hackers travelling from a variety of locations to join us at the Battery Shed in Inveresk for the event. The hacks were impressive, the catering was off the chain and people had a really great time. We’re looking forward to doing it all again next year!

Kathy Reid (Geelong): Run in Geelong for the first time in 2015, GovHack Geelong was an unmitigated success. Attracting 90 registrations, around 50 participants, including the City of Greater Geelong Mayor, Darryn Lyons, attended the opening night and around 30 hackers stayed on for the entire weekend. 10 projects were completed during GovHack Geelong, utilising a wide range of data sets, including the Atlas of Living Australia, Transport Accident Commission and VicRoads crash data, and several data sets released specifically for GovHack by the City of Greater Geelong. The event’s success was largely due to the incredible collegiality and support harnessed throughout the Geelong region, with strong financial, management and in-kind support from City of Greater Geelong and Enterprise Geelong, Deakin University, Transport Accident Commission, StartupCloud, Geelong Connected Communities and Duxtel. The Meet the Data Owners Event prior to the GovHack weekend was an excellent ‘seed’ event and the relaxed atmosphere enabled cross-pollination of the Geelong developer and data owner community to occur. The Local Awards night was also a relaxed event, held in combination with Geelong Silicon Beach, an entrepreneurial community.

Andrew Perry (Parramatta): The hackers at the Parramatta node, hosted by the social enterprise incubator Collaboratory, spent the weekend in collaboration and innovation. We had a variety of participants including students and developers as competitors and a mentors from both the local council, state government and technology communities. Over the space of the weekend we had people come together to use their creative hacking talents to deliver two prototype apps using data from local government and federal government agencies. By then end of the 2 and a half day hackathon, there was a sense of community, camaraderie and a sleep deprived energy that brought everyone together for that final stretch. GovHack is an incredible opportunity for those involved to meet people, make friends and form connections in your field and broader community.

David Nichols (Hamilton): GovHack Hamilton was hosted by the Department of Computer Science at the University of Waikato. Students, former-students and members of the wider community combined to implement seveal creative ideas using NZ Government data. The Crime Sheep project from team Sandpit Ninjas won the Hacker Popular vote award. Local sponsorship from Ultrafast Fibre.

Anne Lawrence (Sunshine Coast): A team of enthusiastic volunteers partnered to create the first ever GovHack event on the Sunshine Coast. With local prizes on offer from both the Sunshine Coast and Noosa Councils, four local teams used both local and national datasets to identify a variety of challenges and develop creative solutions. The best part about the event was the sense of community and sharing amongst all involved. We started off as a node in 2015 and can’t wait to ‘grow up’ and become a full fledged location for the 2016 Gov Hack event. For more information on prize winners and a summary video go to:

Bridget Coulter (Onkapringa): Onkaparinga Libraries got on board with N3xt Gen Unleashed, as our first go at anything Gov Hacky, this year with 3 teams participating. Staff were very excited about taking part and supported the young people over the weekend with their projects. As newbies we didn’t get everything right of course but we did have high levels of enthusiasm from the participants, plenty of praise from parents for offering the opportunity and on going engagement with the young people who came along for the weekend, they now attend makerspace activities in our libraries. Keen to get involved again in 2016.

History and colophon

The first GovHack was a government sponsored initiative from the Gov 2.0 Taskforce in 2009, and was run by John Allsop and Web Directions. Thank you John for kicking off a movement, and inspiring our imaginations. A huge shoutout to Yiying Lu who designed the original GovHack logo as part of GovHack 2009. She is also known for her rather famous Fail Whale artwork. We love your work!

Media and blogs

Here is a collection of media and other external blog posts about GovHack. We keep the full list at If you come across something to add, please let us know at


Who’s behind GovHack? This is a non-profit event proudly run by volunteers who form the GovHack Coordination Team. Our ongoing thanks to everyone who gets involved and makes GovHack awesome! That is, the hackers, data providers, sponsors, mentors and a special thanks to the volunteers who run Local GovHack events.
Sponsoring GovHack 2016 If you are interested in sponsoring this event, please contact GovHack Australia at or GovHack New Zealand at
The GovHack Global Operations Team Click through to find us on Twitter and Google+ Richard TubbJan Bryson,  Alex Sadleir, Alysha Thomas, Keith Moss,  Gavin Tapp

Privacy Statement/Disclaimer
GovHack is run under the auspices of Linux Australia.