Economic contribution | Personnel | Housing | Bases and sites | Further information | Explanatory notes
The NT is a strategic location for defence in an important part the Indo-Pacific region from an economic and regional stability standpoint. With a significant army, navy and air force presence in the NT, defence continues to be a consistent contributor to economic activity, providing stimulus to local businesses and supporting regional employment.
The 2020 Defence strategic update and the 2020 Force structure plan reinforces the importance of the Territory to Australia’s national security, with over $8 billion in infrastructure to be invested in the Territory over the next decade.
The local Defence population (including personnel and their families) is estimated at about 12,000 people. Defence personnel generally move to the NT on a two to three year posting, many with their partners and children, thus contributing to regular population turnover in the NT.
- Defence expenditure in the NT reached $2.2 billion in 2020-21, or 8.8% of the NT’s gross state product (GSP)(Chart 1)
- This represents a 0.9% decrease compared to the previous year, mainly reflecting a decrease in operational expenses and investment spending, partly offset by an increase in salaries
- Defence expenditure in the NT as a proportion of total national defence expenditure represented 4.5% in 2020-21
- National defence expenditure accounted for 2.3% of Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP)
- The number of defence personnel located in the NT increased by 0.2% to 5,444 persons (including permanent personnel and reservists) in 2020-21
- This reflects the third consecutive annual increase, following seven consecutive years of decline since a peak of 7,234 people in 2009‑10
- Of the 5444 defence personnel, 3371 are in the army, 1048 are in the air force, 821 are in the navy, and 204 are Department of Defence civilians (Chart 3)
- About 81% of defence personnel in the NT are permanent forces
- Despite an increase in NT defence personnel in 2020-21, the NT’s share of Australia’s defence personnel decreased 0.1 percentage points to 5.1% from 2019-20
- Defence Housing Australia (DHA) managed about 1,746 properties in the NT in 2020-21, to accommodate personnel working at a number of Defence bases, including RAAF Base Darwin, Larrakeyah Barracks and RAAF Base Tindal.
- This reflects 1.5% decrease in total stock compared to the previous year, and below the average of the previous 10years (2,221 properties) (Chart 4)
- About 80% of DHA properties are located in Darwin, with the remainder in Tindal and Alice Springs
- The NT accounted for 9.2% of all DHA properties across Australia
- DHA projects in the NT currently under way or expected to commence in the coming years include:
- Breezes Muirhead, located in Darwin’s northern suburbs, which is expected to be completed by 2022, resulting in 1179 dwelling lots, with around 283 dwellings retained for defence members and their families
- Development of the former Lee Point Radar Station, which is expected to result in about 800 residential lots, of which 30% 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 2020 Strategic Update 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 by Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission, please refer to the NT Rebound 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.