Australia today is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Mawson station and the opening of new science facilities at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).

Named after the early 20th century Australian polar explorer and scientist, Sir Douglas Mawson, the station is the longest continuously operating station south of the Antarctic circle.

His Excellency the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, AC, CVO, MC (Retd) officially opened a new science wing and refurbished buildings at the AAD’s headquarters in Tasmania.

The buildings are named after Sir Douglas Mawson and five of his companions — John King Davis, Frank Wild, Frank Hurley, Walter Hannam and Tasmanian, Charles Harrisson — during his Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911–1914.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Dr Sharman Stone said that Mawson’s extraordinary feats of exploration led to his claim of 42 per cent of Antarctica for Australia, and our ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of the frozen continent.

“Australia’s Antarctic program was pioneered by the work of Mawson and his companions,” Dr Stone said.

“Mawson understood the importance of Antarctic research for Australia and the rest of the world.

“He worked hard towards the government’s establishment, in 1948, of the Australian Antarctic Division to support national Antarctic research expeditions.”

Dr Stone said that the Australian Government’s $6.2 million rebuilding program at the Australian Antarctic Division would greatly enhance its research capabilities.

“We now have world-class biological, ecological and atmospheric science research laboratories and a marine research facility equal to the most advanced in the world for the study of Antarctic marine organisms.

“The new facilities also provide for important research into the potentially toxic effects of synthetic pollutants on Antarctica’s ecology.

“Australia’s research program is supported by three permanent stations in Antarctica.

“The program aims to better understand the Southern Ocean region and to protect its complex ecosystems and wildlife, and how the physical processes drive global climate systems.

“Science is pivotal to achieving of these goals,” Dr Stone said.

“Australia’s role in Antarctica has grown significantly since the establishment of Mawson station in 1954.

“Each year, around 300 research scientists and support personnel travel to Mawson, our other continental stations Davis and Casey and field camps beyond or to sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

“Mawson’s tenacity and drive, and the sacrifice of his fellow expeditioners, serves as great inspiration still to the men and women who follow in their footsteps,” Dr Stone said.