The Northern Territory town of Nhulunbuy could potentially host a forward-operating military base for the ADF and its allies.


ASPI security contributor Jaya Pastor-Elsegood believes there is potential for a more significant military presence across the Top End’s regional and remote locations. Pastor-Elsegood argues that:

East Arnhem Land has a significant town—Nhulunbuy, the largest town in the region—and is home to the NT’s second deepest naturally-occurring port in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Nhulunbuy has several strategic advantages that make it an ideal location for an alliance forward-operating base, including a power supply.

Nhulunbuy’s deep-water port is one of the region’s primary distribution points. 

The airstrip can accommodate the USA and Australian military aircraft.

A Defence presence would bring significant local economic benefit.

However, there are also challenges, including:

The Town and alumina refinery sits on a mining lease which stipulates what kind of activities can occur.

Supply lines into East Arnhem Land would need to be upgraded.

The East Arnhem region is Aboriginal land, so there’d need to be extensive consultation with the traditional owners.


Oct 2020 The Australian NT ‘could be a forward operating base for ADF’

Jun 2021 ASPI How the US and Australia can be real partners in the Indo-Pacific grey zone

Jul 2021 Developing East Arnhem Economic and community profile