Australia’s presence and leadership in Antarctica reflects our strong national connection to Antarctica and our national Antarctic interests.
The Australian Antarctic programme is focused on conducting world-class science of critical national importance and global significance, that delivers on Australian Antarctic policy and operational priorities.
The Australian Government Department of the Environment's Australian Antarctic Division (based in Hobart, Tasmania) is responsible for leading, coordinating and delivering the Australian Antarctic programme.
We manage Australia’s presence and administer the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Southern Ocean, and in the subantarctic Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) and their adjacent waters.
As a division of the Department of the Environment the Australian Antarctic Division is responsible for the "Advancement of Australia’s strategic, scientific, environmental and economic interests in the Antarctic by protecting, administering and researching the region" (Outcome 3 of the Department's Strategic Plan 2014–2018).
The Australian Government works closely with stakeholders across the Antarctic sector including the Tasmanian Government, education institutions, industry, conservation organisations and others in the community interested in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
The programme manages and implements combined sea, air and continental transport capabilities to undertake wide-ranging marine, ice and aviation-based research activities, personnel transfer, station operation and resupply, and waste management and removal.
The operational and logistics building blocks of the Australian Antarctic programme are our research stations, icebreaker, aviation support systems and personnel.
Australia also works closely with other countries’ Antarctic programmes to operate cooperatively on the ice and at sea. The work undertaken by the Australian Antarctic programme enables Australia to maximise its influence in the Antarctic Treaty system.
Antarctica: valued, protected and understood.
Read more about our vision in the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan.
Antarctic science is a national priority and is the key mechanism through which Australia achieves its national interests in Antarctica. The Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan (2011-12 to 2020-21) guides the conduct of Antarctic science.
Major science programs and individual research projects are reviewed periodically in line with national and global research priorities. Collaborative research programmes are also conducted with other Australian agencies, research institutions and international bodies.
Australia maintains three stations on the Antarctic continent – Mawson, Davis, and Casey – and a subantarctic station on Macquarie Island. All have modern buildings with living quarters, research laboratories, power houses, stores, workshops and other operational facilities. Remote field bases operate during the summer research season, supporting coastal, inland and traverse operations.
All research stations are operated year‑round, but with minimal staff over the harsh winter months. The programme relies on a cohesive workforce of Antarctic expeditioners including: station leaders, tradespeople, voyage management teams, aviation teams, medical professionals, chefs, communications operators and information technology experts. Expeditioners are supported by office‑based staff experienced in Antarctic policy, law, operations, medicine and science.
Sea and air transport
Australia’s icebreaker, RSV Aurora Australis is the platform for a large annual marine research effort focussed on the Southern Ocean and assists in resupplying our research stations, with additional ships chartered when required. Resupply ships depend on favourable sea-ice conditions and can operate only during the summer season. The jet aircraft link, between Hobart and a 3.5 km blue-ice runway near Casey, greatly improves access, and has increased Australia’s field support capability. Long range fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters operate in summer between the Antarctic continental stations and field research sites.
Staff and facilities
Over 300 permanent and temporary staff are employed, including:
- operational, policy, science, and administrative and other support personnel, based at Kingston in Tasmania
- the summer and wintering expeditioners serving in the Antarctic and subantarctic
- programme scientists located at the University of Tasmania
The Kingston buildings house laboratories for science, electronics and electron microscopy, mechanical and instrument workshops, a krill research aquarium, equipment stores, communications and other operational and support facilities.
The Antarctic Division’s headquarters is a foundation stone of Tasmania’s role as a gateway for Antarctic science and logistics and provides a major contribution to the Tasmanian economy through employment, skills development and research, and the purchase of goods and services.
We bring Antarctica closer to all Australians through our popular website, special publications, educational resources, and by making Antarctica accessible to film makers, journalists, writers and artists through the annual Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship and Media Programme. We also manage a substantial polar research library and collections of photographs and audio-visual materials that form a major part of Australia’s Antarctic heritage. The Australian Antarctic Data Centre integrates the research data sets created by our science programmes and makes these accessible to scientists globally via the internet. Scientific publications are listed on our website.