The Great Barrier Reef is a multiple use area and is a critical part of Australia’s defence training programs, directly contributing to the training and operations of Australia’s defence services.

Intensive training activities are regularly undertaken in a few designated areas of the Great Barrier Reef, which cover less than four per cent of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

While most of these areas are small, the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area is one of Australia’s largest.

Activities include navy clearance dive training, boating and navigation exercises as well as amphibious landings. This use may increase over time.


All defence training activities are managed directly by the Australian Department of Defence.

Managing the environmental impacts within the Marine Park is undertaken by the Department of Defence in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The Australian Environment Department and the Queensland Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing are also involved.


High impact activities are carefully managed and confined to specific localised areas and limited to a few weeks per year.

Thorough assessment and management means that the impacts are reduced as far as possible. Many Defence activities are conducted with dedicated shipboard and aerial observers. These personnel are able to collect data on marine wildlife sightings, as well as ensure activities are delayed if required.

The Department of Defence has a moratorium on the use of high explosives in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area except in the Shoalwater Bay training area.

Environmental assessment management

As a multiple-use area, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park supports a range of activities and it is important to ensure they have minimal impact on the marine environment.

Read more on Environmental assessment management