Australia’s activities in Antarctica, from scientific research through to logistics and transport, are coordinated through the Australian Antarctic Program.
The 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.
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 the region.
By studying the region, we can unlock the secrets of the past and predict future changes. Antarctic science tells us how the Southern Ocean and Antarctic icesheets respond to rising temperatures and greenhouse gases and how we might be affected by climate change.
From the smallest microbes, to krill (the keystone species of the Antarctic ecosystem), to blue whales (the largest animals to have ever existed), the research conducted through the Australian Antarctic Program helps protect the unique environment and biological systems of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
This research enables Australia to contribute to and strengthen the Antarctic Treaty system and its environmental protection regime. The Antarctic Treaty establishes Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science and puts in place principles for the governance of the region.
Making it happen
Antarctica is the most remote and challenging place on the planet. The Australian Antarctic Program has air and sea transport to get expeditioners south and enable them to travel around the icy continent.
Australia’s icebreaker RSV Nuyina is the main lifeline to Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations and the central platform of our Antarctic and Southern Ocean scientific research. Nuyina (pronounced noy‑yee‑nah) means 'southern lights' in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines.
The southern lights, also known as aurora australis, are a natural light display formed over Antarctica that reaches northwards to Australian – and particularly Tasmanian – skies.
The Australian Antarctic Program uses long-range aircraft to 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 stations and field sites.
Our people and stations
Australia maintains three year-round research stations, Casey, Davis and Mawson and one on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. Remote field bases operate during the summer research season, supporting coastal, inland and traverse operations.
The population at each station ranges between 40 and 100 expeditioners over summer, and 15 to 20 over the winter months. Each season more than 500 expeditioners travel south with the Australian Antarctic Program.
Each station is like a small town and we have a diverse and dedicated workforce. There’s station leaders, tradespeople, scientists, doctors, chefs and communications experts. We also have a team of people supporting our shipping and aviation activities. Expeditioners are supported by head office staff experienced in Antarctic policy, law, operations, medicine and science.