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QUESTnet - A Brief History

In the late 1970's and early 1980's the universities in Queensland were at the forefront - indeed bleeding edge - of the development of computer communications and networking. The introduction of "time sharing" computers in the 1970's led to the development of the earliest, simple networks and in 1981 the first 10Mbps Ethernet in the southern hemisphere was installed at the University of Queensland.

QUESTnet arose as an informal forum of the universities in Queensland for their network developments. They had to develop the knowledge and skills of their own staff in these technologies to be able to proceed as there was no one who could teach them. So they arranged a series of technical meetings, forums and workshops to this end. QUESTnet also became the informal umbrella group for the development of intra-University networks, continuing with these dual roles for some 20 years.

The staff development forums became the annual "QUESTnet Winter Workshop" which, in turn, grew into the QUESTnet Annual Conference, run since 1994. Now one of the premier networking conferences in Australia, it attracts in excess of 350 delegates each year. Like the earlier workshops, each conference is organised by one of the Universities and planned to run on a break-even basis. It always focuses on staff development, with hands-on workshops, as well as papers from invited overseas and local speakers. This conference is strongly supported by the University ICT sector in Australia, AARNet Pty Ltd (APL), the company that operates Australia's Academic and Research Network (AARNet), and the ICT industry which assists with sponsorship to help keep costs down.

By 1999, the development, operation and maintenance of the intra-university networks had become a major activity and the need for development of staff knowledge and skills widened dramatically with the Universities still taking a lead in developing advanced network applications. After some consideration the Universities decided to split the two functions. The network development was held within the University framework under the banner of the Queensland Regional Network Organisation (QRNO). In July 2001 QUESTnet was set up as a separate group with its own constitution and finances to expand the role of staff development and develop other areas of common interest.

The group agreed to initially expand the training via a series of workshops on current topics during the year. These are to be kept "in house" for the first couple of years to get them running smoothly and then to be opened up to other organisations. In 2002, the first year of this new operation, three workshops were run in addition to the annual conference. Free to members, attendance at the workshops ranged from 20 to 55.

Workshops run to date include Application Level (Layer 7) Firewalls and Switches, IT Project Management, Campus Network Design, Directory Services, Services Consolidation, SPAM, Access Grids, and Network & Systems Monitoring. The workshops scheduled for 2005 are Benchmarking, CiscoWorks Network Management, Enterprise Architecture Development, and Security Audit Tools.

In 2002 the federal Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) established the Higher Education Bandwidth Advisory Committee (HEBAC) to review the needs for high bandwidth communication links for research. QUESTnet members provided input t0 the QRNO report submitted to HEBAC. Key elements of the QRNO report were included in the HEBAC report to DEST and resulted in a federal government grant of $5.5M to QRNO towards the first stage development to connect regional Universities. This submission led to the implementation of high bandwidth fibre services to Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, James Cook University in Townsville, and Grangenet PoPs in Brisbane. Stage 2 of the network is under development.

In 2003 QUESTnet was registered as a charity.

QUESTnet continues to run workshops, the annual conference, and to lobby for improved services for its member universities.

QUESTnet Mission

The QUESTnet mission is to promote and advance the development and use of Information and Communications Technologies in Higher Education and Research in Queensland and adjacent areas in Australia, through a variety of relevant means.

Guiding Principles

  1. Institutions will collaborate to more effectively advance agreed ICT agenda within the region, whilst preserving their independence and ability to compete with each other as necessary.
  2. Cost sharing initiatives will recognize the range of size of QUESTnet members; their geography (including number of campuses) and their respective ability to contribute, in achieving equitable outcomes.
  3. QUESTnet will work with all levels of government, CAUDIT and AARNet to enhance the ICT efficacy of its members.
  4. QUESTnet will undertake initiatives eg. Workshops , training, conferences, to address professional development requirements for its members where such requirements are not being effectively met by the market or CAUDIT.
  5. QUESTnet will maintain a close relationship with and work in partnership with CAUDIT and AARNet as necessary to achieve its goals of professional development of members’ ICT staff.

QUESTnet Goals

QUESTnet strives to:

  • Foster and facilitate coordination and cooperation in the work of members (eg. by arranging special meetings and seminars to discuss mechanisms for sharing knowledge and infrastructure)
  • Provide opportunities for the exchange of information among technical staff in the region (eg. by the annual QUESTnet Conference and other meetings of personnel in areas of common interest and endeavour)
  • Formulate and offer approaches to common issues of members (eg. commission projects, arrange development seminars)
  • Provide strategic direction to, and coordination among, the ICT activities in the sector (eg. via committee memberships, submissions on proposed initiatives)
  • Establish and oversee sub-committees for specific roles or tasks for the benefit of members (eg. QUESTnet Conference)
  • Develop and maintain cooperative working relationships with CAUDIT, AARNet and the QRNO
  • Promote and represent our sector in the State to develop a sphere of influence, particularly with other educational areas and Government
  • Deal with Vendors on a regional basis appropriate to QUESTnet members.

More Specific 3-Year Objectives

  • Broaden the focus of training and workshops offered from a technical one to cover wider professional development of members’ ICT staff, including leadership development which complements other sources of such development eg. CAUDIT.
  • Deliver at least four professional development events (training or workshops) relevant to members each year.
  • Successfully run a QUESTnet conference each year. 
  • Implement a repository to share members’ ICT tender documents and other relevant professional documentation.
  • Work closely with the Qld Government Procurement Office to ensure university requirements are covered in State Government Panel Arrangements for ICT products and services.
  • Sponsor at least one project deemed valuable by members.
  • Develop and maintain good relationships with QRNO, QCIF, CAUDIT, AARNet, RDSI, NeCTAR, ANDS, AAF as well as key Federal and State Government agencies eg. DIISR, Public Works, Health and Education.

Current Members

Office Bearers

Chair

Bruce Callow (b.callow@griffith.edu.au)

Treasurer

Roy Pidgeon (r.pidgeon@cqu.edu.au)

Deputy Chair

Chris Bridge (chris.bridge@qut.edu.au)

Executive Officer

Warren Fraser (warren.fraser@uq.edu.au)

Term of Office:

Chair 2014 (elected at end of 2011)

Deputy Chair 2013 (elected early 2011)

Treasurer 2014 (elected early 2012)

QUESTnet Constitution