Woomera - The world's largest shooting range!!
Woomera Village is a Military town/Base that is located in the Far North region of South Australia. You have to drive past it if driving the Stuart Highway between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy. It is not often that you can access a Military town/base, but Woomera is an exception, and it forms part of the RAAF Woomera Range Complex. Actually, part of the Stuart Highway in this area is also within the Range, and can be closed for hours at a time when testing is being carried out.
The Woomera Village was first established in 1947, and was established to cater for the thousands of people moving there as part of the Anglo-Australian Project. This project lasted for 34 years, and Woomera was one of the most secret allied establishments in operation during the Cold War.
During this time, between 1947 and 1971, the village had a population of about 7,000 and at one stage had the highest birth numbers in the country. Considering its isolation, this would not really be surprising. The village was also a closed town until 19982. Since 1982, the village has been opened to visitors, however while you can visit and stay a day or two, you cannot live here unless you work for the Australian Government in the Department of Defence or are contracted to work there – yes there is a general store, and the employees are contracted to be there. The usual population is between 150 to 200 people, however there is accommodation for an extra 500 people available.
The RAAF Woomera Range Complex covers approximately 122,000 square kilometres and is subject to Military Control under the guidance of the Chief of Air Force. The village is within the complex, and other than the Stuart Highway, is the only part of the complex that can be accessed by the public.
The range complex also takes in about 27 pastoral stations as well as four major mines and opal fields near Coober Pedy. All these are closed for at least one month a year while operational testing of the RAAF’s firepower is undertaken.
While we were there we checked out the Woomera National Aerospace and Missile Park, which is conveniently located in the centre of the town. It features missiles and rockets that have been developed within Woomera and tested on the range in Woomera, as well as aircraft that have been used in trails over the land space of the range.
We also spent time exploring the Woomera Heritage/Visitors Information Centre, which used to be the recreation centre for US Air Force personnel and their families. This centre has a working bowling alley, a café and a great interactive display about the Range as well as regional history and a souvenir shop.
This is Australian History that is interesting, fascinating and something that our children have learnt about while traveling. It is a place of significance, not only for Australian Military History, but also for America, England and many other countries.