Victoria has a long and proud history of defence manufacturing, dating back well before World War I when armoured vehicles were built by hand in the then rural town of Bendigo. They were pieced together here because it was deemed safest to do so, hidden by the surrounding dense Victorian bush and away from enemy eyes.
Fast forward 107 years and the protected military vehicle manufacturing industry is still bustling in the regional centre, although it is now a billion-dollar industry bringing new skills and creating jobs growth and investment into the community.
Further south, Williamstown is renowned for its rich maritime history, where the building of naval vessels started in 1940. Today many Victorian businesses still contribute to the delivery of Australia's naval capability, providing components and services to Australia's National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.
Victoria's maritime industrial sector is made up of around 500 companies supplying products and services to naval shipbuilding and submarine projects.
Victoria's defence sector contributes $84 billion annually to the state's economy supporting around 36,600 jobs across industry and the Australian Defence Organisation. There are some 6,300 small-to medium businesses working across military vehicle production, maritime design and sub-systems, aerospace components, digital and cyber security and munitions, generating $350 million in defence exports.
The Victorian Government understands the value of defence manufacturing to the state and is investing in programs and industry capability to boost opportunities for local and international companies.
It's doing that by helping local companies to scale up, become more competitive and build more resilient supply chains.
In fact, Victorian companies are part of the manufacturing supply chain for many projects based outside of the state including the LAND 400 Phase 2 and the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.
This is helping ensure the state's long history of land, maritime and aerospace systems manufacturing excellence continues.
The State is also investing significantly in advanced manufacturing, world-class research and development, as well as growing our highly skilled engineering workforce to provide military capability to the Australian Defence Force.
One initiative is Victoria's Defence Science Institute, jointly funded by the Victorian Government, participating universities and the Defence Science and Technology Group. This harnesses the capabilities of Victoria's universities to deliver multi-disciplinary solutions for the defence sector.
Another program is the $1.36 million Smart Enough Factory Program, delivered in partnership with the DMTC Limited. This program supports local small-to-medium sized defence industry businesses to modernise design and manufacturing processes, and start their digitalisation journey.
The Victorian Government has also supported the establishment of SYPAQ's Defence Autonomy Centre of Excellence in Fishermans Bend to develop innovative technologies and intellectual property related to autonomous systems and cyber security.
Victorian universities contribute 40 per cent – around $61 million – of Australia's annual university defence research and development spend – more than any other state in the country. Many have also entered research and development partnerships with leading manufacturing companies including Boeing, Thales, Siemens and Lockheed Martin.
Victoria's TAFE system provides bespoke defence support and can adapt to business requirements, while improving the skills of its students. For example, Thales engaged the support of the local TAFE system to develop a new training system to improve the quality and skills of its welding students. This benefited not only the company and its workers, but also future TAFE students.
Victoria is Australia's innovation heartland and has the knowledge, skills and experience within the local supply chain to deliver complex defence platforms, military equipment, and the supplies and services required by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and international customers.
There are a number of large- scale defence projects underway in Victoria, adding to the state's capability to lead similar such projects, including:
Defence businesses are choosing to grow and invest in Victoria because of its collaborative environment, strong manufacturing base, skilled workforce and commercial setting that fosters innovation and growth.
The Victorian Government is committed to supporting the local defence industry to build and sustain military capability and create high-value defence and advanced manufacturing jobs for Victoria.