The Northern Territory (NT) is an important strategic location for defence. This industry continues to make a substantial contribution to the NT economy through direct and indirect employment and demand for local goods and services. The defence industry also generates economic activity through major operations and exercises held in the NT, along with major capital infrastructure projects, many of which engage local businesses.
Economic contribution | Personnel | Housing | Bases and sites | Further information | Explanatory notes
Defence personnel generally move into the NT on a minimum of an one‑year posting, thus substantially contributing to population turnover in the NT. Families moving with defence personnel also contribute economically to the NT community by adding to the pool of available employees. Defence’s contribution to the NT’s population is significantly broader than personnel directly employed, as a significant number of defence force personnel arriving in the NT also bring with them spouses and children. It is estimated the NT’s total defence population (including personnel and their families) is approximately 12,000 people. The defence community directly contributes to the economic and social development of the region. Further, the number of US Marines arriving in the NT as part of the Joint Australia‑US Force Posture Initiative has increased significantly since the primary rotation, which is not included in the total defence force personnel data.
- total defence expenditure contributed 7.6% to the NT’s gross state product (GSP) or approximately $2.0 billion, in inflation‑adjusted terms
- this reflects an increase of 1.1% compared to the previous year and remains above with the 10-year average defence expenditure of $2.0 billion (Chart 1)
- the share of defence expenditure as a proportion of NT GSP has been trending upwards since the low of 6.9% in 2014-15, accounting for 7.6% in 2018-19 (Chart 2)
- defence expenditure in the NT as a proportion of total national defence expenditure represented 4.8% in 2018-19, slightly below the 10-year average of 5.4%
- nationally, total defence expenditure accounted for 2.2% of Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP)
- defence personnel based in the NT increased by 0.9% to 5,386 persons (including permanent personnel and reservists)
- The increase follows seven consecutive years of decline since a peak of 7,234 people in 2009‑10
- defence personnel consists of those in the army (3,479), air force (1,033), navy (664) and Department of Defence civilians (210) (Chart 3)
- permanent force (up 0.3% to 4,412 persons) and the reserve forces (up 10.7% to 764) increased as a result of an expansion in the army (up 4.8%)
- NT’s share of defence personnel increased slightly from 5.2% in 2017-18 to 5.3%.
- Defence Housing Australia (DHA) managed 1,808 properties in the NT, down 5.9% compared to the previous year, below the 10‑year average number of properties of 2,292 (Chart 4)
- NT share of DHA properties across Australia was 10.2%
- of the properties in the NT, about 80.4% were located in Darwin, with the remainder in Tindal and Alice Springs
- DHA projects in the Territory currently under way or expected to commence in the coming years include:
- ongoing expansion of the suburb of Muirhead for completion in 2019, which is expected to result in 1184 dwelling lots, with around 305 properties to be built by DHA and occupied by defence members and their families
- development of the former Lee Point Radar Station site located near Lee Point and Muirhead North, expected to result in about 800 residential lots, of which 30 per cent will be allocated for defence members.
Bases and sites
All three ADF services (army, navy and airforce) have multiple northern Australia bases. The army operates from Larrakeyah Barracks and Robertson Barracks; the navy is based at HMAS Coonawarra; and the air force has RAAF bases Darwin and Tindal in the NT.
Map 1: Major defence sites in the NT1
- For information about the Integrated Investment Program, published with the 2016 Defence White Paper please refer to the Commonwealth’s Department of Defence website. The website also contains defence initiatives and community engagement information.
- DefenceNT also provides useful information and sources to defence and related industries, including defence bases, training and exercises in the NT, and information about the 2018 Northern Territory Defence and National Security Strategy.
- Defence largely contributes to economic and employment activity though capital projects, with detailed information available in the annual reports published on the Department of Defence website.
- Please refer to the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation’s website for information in regards to the Darwin Ship Lift and Marine Industry Project.
- For more information on the opportunities for Defence identified through the Economic Development Framework, please refer to the NT Government Economic Development Framework website.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) does not classify defence as a separate industry for reporting purposes in the national accounts, however it is reported against a number of industries and is predominantly included in the ‘public administration and safety’ industry. Defence personnel numbers are also excluded from the ABS labour force statistics, for reporting purposes.
- References to defence refer to the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force (ADF), collectively. Data for defence personnel and housing is sourced from the Department of Defence and the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) annual reports.