HMAS Stirling, Fleet Base West, Garden Island
HMAS Stirling is Australia's largest Fleet Base, capable of supporting half the fleet. Also known as "Fleet Base West," it is located on the shores of Careening Bay, on the south eastern section of Garden Island, facing Cockburn Sound south of the Port of Fremantle. Part of the island is controlled by the Navy, the rest of the island has been returned to its original pristine state.
In late 2002 the Australian government agreed to allow the US military to use the HMAS Stirling naval base in Cockburn Sound on the west coast of Australia to trial its new "sea-swap" program. The plan is aimed at boosting US naval firepower in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. Critics charge that the Australian Federal and State Governments are working to make Cockburn Sound a defacto base for the US navy. The plans include flying thousands of US military personnel in and out of Western Australia to meet US warships in Cockburn Sound. Under the proposal the US navy would use WA as a swap over point for the 7th fleet. Navy crew coming in and out of theatres of war would go straight to WA instead of US bases in San Diego or Hawaii.
The state government is investigating the possibility of upgrading facilities at the Australian Marine Complex in Cockburn Sound so that deep-water US aircraft carriers can use the base. It has also established a task force involving the ship repair, tourism and accommodation industries.
Having a Garden Island in Western Australia as well as in Sydney on Australia's east coast can cause some confusion. The Royal Australian Navy's two main bases for Major Fleet Units are located at Fleet Base East, Garden Island, Sydney, New South Wales and at Fleet Base West, HMAS Stirling, Garden Island, Western Australia (Near Perth).
HMAS Stirling naval base in Cockburn Sound is located 15 kilometers from Fremantle, a densely populated suburb near the state capital Perth. Garden Island is the site of Australia's first free or non-convict settlements. The island is 5 km off the mainland and is right next to one of the fastest growing residential areas in Australia, Perth.
Originally named Isle Buache by the French in 1981, Garden Island was first settled by Capt. James Stirling in 1827 who "prepared a garden and released a cow, two ewes and three goats in a area of good pasture with good water supply". Capt. Charles Fremantle arrived in 1829 but only anchored off the island to take possession of Australia's west coast. Capt. Stirling returned the same year to take up his grant of 100,000 acres plus any livestock remaining from his previous visit. He re-named the island Garden Island and the first settlement of 450 people was named Sulpher Town. Sulpher Bay and Careening Bay were important anchorage and cargo disembarkation points for ships until 1897 when Fremantle inner harbour was completed. In 1907 Peet & Co subdivided 83 blocks in Careening Bay. After WWI it became a holiday resort with wooden cottages erected in the bay.
During World War II, Garden Island was used by the army, navy and "Z" force. Careening Bay Camp (CBC) near Garden Island was also called the Special Boat School Training school for "Z" Special Operations Commandos. During WWII gin batteries were located on Garden Island and the secret unit (Z-Force) operated and trained there for their clandestine raids against the Japanese. Following the war it became a holiday resort again and the home of the RAN Reserve Fleet.
In 1966 a feasibility study was began into establishment of a naval support facility on the island, and in 1969 it was endorsed by the Federal Government. Construction of the 4.3 km causeway began in 1971 and completed in 1973. The Naval Support Facility was completed in 1978 and HMAS Stirling formally commissioned in the same year. Since then public access to the island has been restricted and those areas open to the public are only accessible by sea via private boat under curfew conditions.
Cockburn Sound is haven to Australia's naval defence capability for the Indian Ocean Region. Cockburn Sound is home to significant maritime facilities including the Australian Marine Complex's shipbuilding and Australia's Naval Forces stationed at Fleet Base West, Garden Island. More than 2500 naval personnel are based on Garden Island which is considered an environmental showpiece.
HMAS Stirling is also the Headquarters of the Australian Submarine Squadron with all submarine training being carried out in the Navy's large Submarine Systems and Training Centre and the associated seven storey Escape Training Facility on the island. Other ships based at Garden Island are the replenishment oiler HMAS Westralia, and the busy patrol boats HMAS Bunbury and HMAS Geraldton. Australian Clearance Diving Team Four is also based at HMAS Stirling. Still expanding within its existing perimeters, HMAS Stirling is considered a good example of how with careful environmental planning and research the Australian Defence Force can live in harmony with nature.
Garden Island, which has a number of important historical sites, is restricted. It is now joined to the mainland by a 4 km causeway. Access along the causeway is restricted to Naval personnel stationed at HMAS Stirling and the only access to the island for non-Navy personnel is by boat or ferry.
Australian Submarine Corporation is also located in Western Australia at HMAS STIRLING, the homeport of the Collins Class submarine fleet.
The Cockburn Sound Cluster is a Western Australian development which is attracting investment, creating jobs and giving life to a diverse range of projects. Along its 18-kilometer length south of Perth, the area supports a variety of land uses, from the major heavy industrial estates to a technology precinct. The Department of Industry and Resources has developed an integrated approach to develop industry across a broad spectrum of activities in Cockburn Sound.
The Marine Support Facility, located within the Australian Marine Complex's Shipbuilding Precinct, is the centerpiece of Western Australia's capacity for vessel repair and refit. The Marine Support Facility is equipped with extensive dry-berth support infrastructure, including Australia's largest ship-lift, which is used extensively by the Australian Navy.
Jervoise Bay, just south of Perth, is the center of a dynamic shipbuilding industry which exports high speed aluminium ferries and other vessels to customers around the world. Henderson, on Jervoise Bay, adjacent to HMAS Stirling, is one of the world's most technologically advanced shipbuilding precincts. It has the largest shiplift in Australia, which has already been used to lift Collins-class submarines for maintenance work. It is also home to Curtin University's Centre for Marine Science and Technology.
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