About us

Aurora over Mawson station
Aurora over Mawson station (Image: Chris Wilson)

The Australian Antarctic Division, based in Hobart, Tasmania, is part of the Australian Government's Department of the Environment and Energy and is responsible for Australia’s presence and activities in the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Southern Ocean. The Division leads Australia’s Antarctic Program.

Leading and supporting

Australia’s activities in Antarctica, from scientific research through to logistics and transport, are coordinated through the Australian Antarctic Program. 

Supporting science on the ice requires a comprehensive logistics operation involving sea, air and ground transport and year-round research stations.

The Australian Antarctic Program is highly collaborative, with partnerships across government and more than 150 national and international research institutions. Australia also works with other countries’ Antarctic programs to run joint international scientific and logistical operations.

Seeking answers

The Australian Antarctic Program’s mission is to answer the big scientific questions; to understand Antarctica and the Southern Ocean as the engine room for global climate. By studying the region, we can unlock the secrets of the past and predict future changes.

The research conducted through the Australian Antarctic Program helps to develop technologies and polices that protect the Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments. It also enables Australia to contribute to and strengthen the Antarctic Treaty system and its environmental protection regime.

Making it happen

Antarctica is the most remote and challenging part of the planet. The Australian Antarctic Program has air and sea transport to get expeditioners south and enable them to travel around the continent. The logistical support also ensures the program can undertake wide-ranging marine, ice and aviation-based research and resupply our stations.

On the ocean, Australia’s Antarctic icebreaker, RSV Aurora Australis, has been the backbone of the shipping system for 30 years. The Australian Government has committed $1.9 billion to design, build and maintain a new ship, RSV Nuyina, which will make her maiden voyage to Antarctica in 2020-21.

In the air, long range aircraft fly people and equipment between Hobart and Wilkins Aerodrome, near Casey research station. The 3.5 kilometre glacial runway operates over the summer months. Smaller planes and helicopters fly between our research stations and field sites.

Research stations

Australia maintains three year-round research stations, Casey, Davis and Mawson and one on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. The population of the stations ranges between 40 and 100 expeditioners over summer and 15 to 20 over the harsh winter months. Each season more than 500 expeditioners travel south with the Australian Antarctic Program.

All stations have living quarters, research laboratories, power houses, stores and workshops. Remote field bases operate during the summer research season, supporting coastal, inland and traverse operations.

The stations rely on a dedicated workforce of Antarctic expeditioners including station leaders, tradespeople, voyage management and aviation teams, doctors, chefs and communications experts. Expeditioners are supported by head office staff experienced in Antarctic policy, law, operations, medicine and science.

Antarctic Treaty system

The Antarctic Treaty system establishes Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science and puts in place principles for the governance of the region. Under the Treaty system mining is banned indefinitely and environmental protection is paramount.

Our vision

Australia’s national interests and vision for future engagement in Antarctica are set out in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan. The Plan recognises Australia’s strong strategic and scientific interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and aims to build Australia’s role as a leader in Antarctica.