Naval Base and Henderson – Naval Defence Plans Remain Only in The Suburb Names

Naval Base, a suburb of Kwinana, and its neighbour, Henderson, a suburb of Cockburn, were both born of a perceived need to provide naval defence for Australia in the west. During the 19th century, the British Admiralty preferred the colonies and dominions to contribute financially and with crews to the Empire’s naval defence, but from the beginning of the 20th century Australians started to push for their own navy. In 1909 the Federal Government suggested building a naval base and shipbuilding facilities for battleships and cruisers. Plans were drawn up for the naval base south of Woodman’s Point and work commenced in 1911 to be abandoned with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, with very little to show for money spent. During World War II submarine repair facilities were set up and the buildings erected for the purpose were later used as wool stores. The suburb Naval Base is now the only remnant of that part of the project in that place. Instead, the Federal Government moved the project to Garden Island in 1969 by building a causeway from Point Peron to the island, which was completed in 1973 while the facility was not finished until 1978. The naval base on Garden Island was named “Stirling” after the first Lieutenant Governor.
Meanwhile, Admiral Reginald Henderson had proposed using a site north of the original Naval Base for shipbuilding, which was officially launched in 1913 with a coastal strip of twenty square kilometres having been resumed for the purpose. The proposed naval base was formerly named the “Henderson Fleet Base” at this ceremony. Postwar austerity in 1921 saw this project abandoned although the area retained the name of Henderson, the suburb name being approved in 1973. The original purpose for this site is not completely forgotten however, as the Australian Marine Complex is now located in Henderson and considered one of the largest ship building facilities in Australia.