About the Woomera Prohibited Area
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The Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) is a globally unique military testing range. It covers 122 188 square kilometres in north-west South Australia, about 450 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. It is the largest land testing range in the world. The WPA is mainly South Australian Crown land covered by pastoral leases, exploration and mining tenements and native title.
The WPA is a Prohibited Area regulated by legislation and is a Defence premise used for the testing of war materiel under the management of the Royal Australian Air Force. The WPA is an important Defence capability and testing and evaluation asset that plays a significant role in Australia’s national security.
The WPA is also highly prospective and the South Australian Government and Geoscience Australia have previously assessed that about $35 billion worth of iron ore, gold and other mineral resources are potentially exploitable from within the WPA over a 10-year period.
The WPA comprises extensive lands north of the Indian Pacific railway, from north of Watson in the south-west up to its north-west corner in the Great Victoria Desert (that stretches across the SA-WA border), across to Coober Pedy, and west of Roxby Downs down to Woomera in the south-east.
Woomera was declared a prohibited area in 1947. The WPA's size (122 188 km2), remote location and quiet electromagnetic environment made it an ideal test and evaluation site for Australia and its allies and partners. The WPA was established as a long-range weapons testing facility by the United Kingdom and Australia under the Anglo-Australian Joint Project, which wound down during the 1970s.
Defence use of the WPA declined during the 1980s and 1990s and it was opened up to non-Defence users including the resources sector.
Changes in the strategic environment since the late 1990s have resulted in increasing use of WPA facilities for the testing and evaluation of weapons systems. The range is now, in parts, in near constant use. This growth coincided with increasing mineral exploitation interest.
In 2010–11 an Australian Government review made recommendations to improve the use of the WPA in Australia’s national interest by better balancing national security and economic interests. The review’s recommendations defined a comprehensive range management framework and transition arrangements necessary to facilitate its introduction. These recommendations culminated in legislative changes in 2014 that detailed new access arrangements.
As of 2015, the term Woomera Range Complex is used to describe the entire Woomera test and evaluation capability, comprised of the Woomera Test Range, RAAF Base Woomera and associated facilities within the complex.
As a declared prohibited area, access to the WPA for non-Defence use requires Commonwealth approval and is on the proviso that Defence activities will not be unduly compromised.
File imagery is available from the Defence Image Gallery.
- Minister for Defence announces the 2018 Woomera Prohibited Area review, 11 May 2018
- Minister for Defence attends ceremony marking the return of Maralinga Tjarutja lands at Woomera, November 2014
- Minister for Defence and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs announce part of Maralinga Lands excised for traditional owners at Woomera, June 2014
- Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into Defence Legislation Amendment (Woomera Prohibited Area) Bill 2013, June 2013
- Minister for Defence and Minister for Resources and Energy introduce Woomera Prohibited Area legislation, 30 May 2013 (NLA archive)
- Minister for Defence and Minister for Resources and Energy announce Woomera Prohibited Area open to resources development under new Deed of Access, 5 October 2012 (NLA archive)
- Minister for Defence announces appointments to the Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board, 5 October 2012 (NLA archive)
- Woomera Prohibited Area open to resources development, 3 May 2011 (NLA archive)