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Diverse economy

Building a more diversified economy is critical to unlock the north’s full potential.

The government is creating an environment in the north where entrepreneurs and small businesses and a range of diverse industries such as agriculture, tourism and resources thrive.

Three Developing Northern Australia conferences, held in Townsville in 2015; Darwin in 2016 and Cairns in 2017 have brought together key stakeholders with a focus on progress, growth and investment.

The next Developing Northern Australia conference will be held in Alice Springs from 18-19 June 2018. The theme for this conference is growth, progress, investment.

Find out more about the developing northern Australia conferences.

Small and medium businesses

The government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme is supporting small and medium businesses in the north through management advice and business grants. These services have been extended to an additional 500 northern businesses.

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme has supported Paspalis Enterprises to operate Darwin’s first innovation hub to assist Northern Territory start-ups succeed in international markets, particularly in the Asia Pacific and China.

Tourism businesses

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is also providing tailored support to northern tourism businesses through the $13.6 million Northern Australia Tourism Initiative. Sixty-one tourism-related businesses have undertaken or are currently undertaking business evaluations; business advisers have been engaged in Cairns, Broome and Darwin, and seven new small business advisory services have been established in northern Australia.

The Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia is well progressed in examining the tourism potential of the north through its Inquiry into Opportunities and Methods for Stimulating the Tourism Industry in Northern Australia.


The north has been and will continue to be the backbone of Australia’s mining and resources sector.

To secure future investment in this sector, the Australian Government’s $100.5 million Exploring for the Future program will help industry target areas likely to contain the next major oil, gas and mineral deposits

Led by Geoscience Australia, the collection of pre-competitive geoscience data in the north (and parts of South Australia) began in the second half of 2016 and will conclude in 2020. This data is being progressively released through the Geoscience Australia website.

A growing defence force presence

Australia’s defence industry already contributes almost 7 per cent of economic growth across the Top End and the Australian Defence Force’s strong presence and investment in the north will continue to fuel regional growth.

Over 20 years, the defence force is investing $20 billion to upgrade defence facilities in the Northern Territory; $930 million to upgrade facilities and infrastructure in Western Australia; and $8 billion over ten years to build new or strengthen existing infrastructure and introduce a fleet of lightly armed boats in Queensland.

Northern defence infrastructure and assets will include new strike and patrol aircraft as well as the Landing Helicopter Docks, Australia’s largest ever warships. The increasing presence of US Marine rotations within northern Australia is also stimulating the development of additional infrastructure and base capacity.

The defence force is working with local businesses to encourage their participation in defence projects and to ensure local contractors and suppliers are considered for major construction projects. At RAAF Base Tindal near Katherine, work to build new air combat capability has supported local jobs and works packages for local sub-contractors.

A stronger workforce

Businesses in northern Australia require an adaptable and mobile workforce with a range of skills.

The White Paper includes a number of initiatives that aim to get more Australians into work in the north and help businesses access the workers they need to expand and grow.

These include the following initiatives:

Additional Skilling Australians Fund assistance may also help to build a stronger labour pool for the north and will continue to provide assistance.