Land agreement between Defence and South Australia formalised to build Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines

17 November 2023

Australia is a step closer to building conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines after the Australian and South Australian governments today signed a land exchange agreement for the submarine construction yard.  

The construction yard, to be built at Osborne, South Australia is a major undertaking that will employ up to 4000 workers at its peak. 

Land will also be secured for the Skills and Training Academy that will educate and train Australia’s elite submarine and naval shipbuilding workforce.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Richard Marles said this historic agreement is a significant milestone in transforming Osborne into one of the most advanced technical hubs in the world. 

“Osborne is at the heart of Australia’s conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarine enterprise and I congratulate and thank South Australia for being such a great partner as we continue to work together to deliver the necessary infrastructure and skills,” Mr Marles said. 

“The future Skills and Training Academy at Osborne will provide Australian workers with the advanced skills and training required to deliver a world-leading future submarine capability.” 

Under the agreement, the appointed design and construction partner, Australian Naval Infrastructure, will progressively take ownership of key land parcels for the submarine construction yard at Osborne from December 2023.

The exchange will see the Government of South Australia acquire Defence-owned land at Keswick and Smithfield, as well as part of the Cultana Training Area north of Whyalla.

Premier of South Australia, Peter Malinauskas said this is a landmark agreement. 

“This is about much more than an exchange of land. This agreement helps unlock thousands of high quality, high paying jobs – in industries from shipbuilding to hydrogen, from Osborne to the Upper Spencer Gulf, and right across our economy,” Mr Malinauskas said. 

“It will also help us deliver thousands of new, well-located homes for thousands of South Australians.

“Nuclear-powered submarines are the most complex machines on the planet and delivering them will require us to deliver the workforce.

“For that reason – we’ll be working closely with the Commonwealth to design the Skills and Training Academy.”

Work at the Osborne submarine construction yard will begin this year as the design is developed, before commencing the build of our first SSN-AUKUS submarines in the late 2020s.

A further 4,000–5,500 jobs are expected to be created for the build of the SSN-AUKUS in South Australia when the program reaches its peak.

Thousands of future shipyard workers will be educated at the Academy across many shipbuilding-related disciplines. A highly skilled workforce will ensure the success of the SSN-AUKUS program and enable Osborne to continue to produce world-leading capabilities in the decades to come.

Leaseback arrangements have been put in place for the Keswick and Smithfield sites to allow Defence services and personnel to gradually relocate to alternative facilities. 

Defence will maintain unrestricted access to the balance of the Cultana Training Area to enable critical ADF training exercises and operations to continue.