Adults employed in the manufacturing industry as a percentage of the adult population in Australia divided geographically by statistical local area, as of the 2011 census
Income from sales of goods and services by manufacturers ($ millions) since 1985

Manufacturing in Australia peaked in the 1960s at 25% of the country's gross domestic product, and has since dropped below 10%. At one stage manufacturing employed almost a third of Australia's workforce.[1] Automotive manufacturing in Australia began in the 1920s and came to an end in 2017.

Australia's greatest manufacturing achievement was the manufacture of the Beaufort, a twin-engined torpedo bomber, during World War II.[2] Australia's manufacturing sector is diverse with the largest sub-industries being food, beverage and tobacco, machinery and equipment, petroleum, coal and chemicals and metal products.[3]


Quarterly gross operating profits ($millions) in the manufacturing industry since 1994
Australia's export price index for manufactured goods since 1990.
Australia's import price index for manufactured goods since 1981.

The manufacture of small steam engines began in the 1830s.[4] The majority of Australia's manufacturing was undertaken in the capital cities and Newcastle because of their proximity to shipping and rail hubs.[4] Working conditions were poor with little regard to health and safety. Child labour was endemic.[4] The clothing and footwear industries were particularly bad.[4] In 1901, Australia's first blast furnace began producing steel near Lithgow in New South Wales.[5] The furnace remains are now heritage listed as the Lithgow Blast Furnace. Another steel mill was opened in 1915 in Newcastle by BHP.[5] Soon more steelworks opened in Whyalla and Port Kembla.[5]

Due to a lack of imports during World War I, Australia saw a boost to manufacturing. The steel industry saw an increase in production as did the manufacture of aspirin and chlorine.[6] The 1920s saw the introduction of car manufacturing in Australia with both Ford and General Motors opening factories.[7] The first Australian-made bottle of Coca-Cola was made in 1938.[8] The Government Aircraft Factories was established in 1939 to manufacture aircraft in Australia.

Manufacturing in Australia experienced an exceptional boom during World War II and the two decades that followed.[7] Local manufacturers were assisted by protectionist tariffs.[1] The Jackson Committee was established in 1974 by the Whitlam government of Australia to advise on policies for Australia's manufacturing industry. The tariffs were cut in the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Workers in iron, steel, auto, white goods, textiles, clothing and footwear industries were particularly hard hit.[1] It wasn't long before new markets in Asian countries such as China and Japan opened up with much cheaper imports now possible.[7]

The contribution of manufacturing to Australia's gross domestic product peaked in the 1960s at 25%, and had dropped to 13% by 2001–2[9] and 10.5% by 2005–6.[10] In 2004–05, the manufacturing industry exported products worth $67,400 million, and employed 1.1 million people.[11]

In 2000–2001, $3.3 billion was spent on assistance to the manufacturing industry, with 40% going to the textile, clothing and footwear industry and the passenger motor vehicle industry.[12] At that time, manufacturing accounted for 48% of exports, and 45% of Australian research and development.[9] From 2000, the resource boom saw the Australian dollar soar on exchanges, making exports expensive on the global stage and imports exceptionally cheap.[13]

In 2007, the breakdown of manufacturing by state, and the fraction of gross state product (GSP) which it contributed, were as follows:[14]

State Percentage of national manufacturing Percentage of GSP
New South Wales 32 10
Victoria 28 12
Queensland 17 9
South Australia 8 13
Western Australia 10 8
Tasmania 3 13
Northern Territory 1 7
Australian Capital Territory 0.5 2

Between 2001 and 2007, the approximate breakdown by industry changed as follows:[14]

Industry Percent in 2001 Percent in 2007
Food, beverages and tobacco 19 19
Textile, clothing and footwear 5 3
Wood and paper products 7 6
Printing, publishing and recorded media 10 10
Petroleum, coal and chemical products 15 14
Non-metal mineral products 4 5
Metal products 18 19
Machinery and equipment 17 19
Other manufacturing 4 4

Food processing

Quarterly sales by Australian manufacturing businesses of food products ($A millions) since 1985

The food and beverage manufacturing industry is the largest in Australia. The sectors include the following:[15]

Sector Turnover (2005–06, $millions)
Meat and meat products 17,836
Beverage and malt manufacturing 13,289
Dairy products 9,991
Sugar and confectionery manufacturing 6,456
Fruit and vegetable processing 4,672
Bakery products 4,005
Flour mill and cereal food manufacturing 3,692
Oil and fat manufacturing 1,547
Seafood processing 1,330 *
Other food manufacturing 8,554
Total 71,372

* Before the 2010 closure of the Port Lincoln Tuna cannery

Textile industry

Until trade liberalisation in the mid-1980s, Australia had a large textile industry.[citation needed] This decline continued through the first decade of the 21st century.[14] Since the 1980s, tariffs have steadily been reduced; in early 2010, the tariffs were reduced from 17.5 percent to 10 percent on clothing, and 7.5–10% to 5% for footwear and other textiles.[16] As of 2010, most textile manufacturing, even by Australian companies, is performed in Asia.

Total employment in Australian textile, clothing and footwear manufacturing (thousands of people) since 1984

Motor vehicles

Main article: Automotive industry in Australia

As of 2008, four companies mass-produced cars in Australia.[17] Mitsubishi ceased production in March 2008, followed by Ford in 2016, and Holden and Toyota in 2017.[18]

Holden bodyworks were manufactured at Elizabeth, South Australia and engines were produced at the Fishermans Bend plant in Port Melbourne. In 2006, Holden's export revenue was just under A$1.3 billion.[19] In March 2012, Holden was given a $270 million lifeline by the Australian government. In return, Holden planned to inject over $1 billion into car manufacturing in Australia. They estimated the new investment package would return around $4 billion to the Australian economy and see GM Holden continue making cars in Australia until at least 2022.[20] However, Holden announced on 11 December 2013 that Holden cars would no longer be manufactured in Australia from the end of 2017.[21]

Ford had two main factories, both in Victoria: located in the Geelong suburb of Norlane and the northern Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows. Both plants were closed down in October 2016.

Until 2006, Toyota had factories in Port Melbourne and Altona, after which all manufacturing was performed at Altona. In 2008, Toyota exported 101,668 vehicles worth $1,900 million.[22] In 2011 the figures were "59,949 units worth $1,004 million".[23] On 10 February 2014 it was announced that by the end of 2017 Toyota would cease manufacturing vehicles and engines in Australia.[24]

In March 2012, a new Australian auto maker, Tomcar, announced they are to build a new factory in Melbourne.[17]

Company Location Assembly Opened Closed
Ford Australia Geelong VIC Cars Example 2016 TBC
Ford Australia Broadmeadows VIC Example Example Example
Holden Port Melbourne VIC Engines Example 2016 TBC
Holden Elizabeth SA Cars Example 2017 TBC

Chemical industry

Quarterly sales by Australian manufacturing businesses of basic chemicals and chemical products ($A millions) since 1985
Total employment in basic chemicals and chemical product manufacturing in Australia (thousands of people) since 1984
Making hats on the factory floor, 1941
Hand grenade manufacturing, 1942

Australia has a chemical industry, including the manufacture of many petrochemicals.[25]

Many mining companies, such as BHP and Comalco, perform initial processing of raw materials.[26] Similarly, Australia's agriculture feeds into the chemical industry. Tasmania produces 40% of the world's raw narcotic materials;[27] some of this is locally converted into codeine and other pharmaceuticals in Tasmania by Tasmanian Alkaloids, owned by Johnson and Johnson, while GlaxoSmithKline processes some of the resulting poppy straw in Victoria.

Companies with manufacturing facilities in Australia

A partial list of companies operating manufacturing facilities in Australia, with their most important products.





Companies that no longer manufacture in Australia

Companies that closed down, or moved manufacturing offshore.

Australian Owned:


See also


  1. ^ a b c d Quince, Annabelle; Kesteven, Sophie (8 June 2020). "Coronavirus has thrown a spotlight on Australia's manufacturing industry. This is the story of its rise and fall". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  2. ^ Weston, Brian. "The Australian Aviation Industry: History and Achievements Guiding Defence and Aviation Industry Policy" (PDF). Royal Australian Air Force. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  3. ^ Langcake, Sean (June 2016). "Conditions in the Manufacturing Sector" (PDF). Reserve Bank of Australia. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d Simpson, Margaret (29 August 2018). "Industrial Revolution in Australia – impact on manufacturing in the 1800s". Powerhouse Museum. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  5. ^ a b c "A Brief History Of Steel Manufacturing In Australia". Australian Steel Traders. 4 April 2022. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  6. ^ "History of manufacturing in Australia" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  7. ^ a b c "A Look At Australia's Manufacturing History". ACRA Machinery. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  8. ^ "Made in Australia: The History of Coca-Cola 'down under'". The Coca-Cola Company. 24 September 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  9. ^ a b Productivity Commission (2004). Trends in Australian Manufacturing (PDF).
  10. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (7 February 2008). "1309.0 – Australia at a Glance, 2008". Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  11. ^ "Advanced Manufacturing". Australian Government. Austrade. Archived from the original on 21 March 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  12. ^ "Australian Manufacturing: A Brief History of Industry Policy and Trade Liberalisation". Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  13. ^ Verrender, Ian (9 June 2020). "Manufacturing can be brought back, but at what cost?". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  14. ^ a b c "Australian manufacturing—structural trends 2001–02 to 2006–07". 24 November 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  15. ^ "About Australia: Food Industry". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Archived from the original on 17 March 2010. Retrieved 6 March 2010.
  16. ^ Anderson, Peter (1 January 2010). "ACCI Welcomes textiles and car tariff cuts (ACCI media release 003/10)" (PDF). Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  17. ^ a b Hassall, David (12 April 2012). "Tomcar - New local vehicle manufacturer". GoAuto. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  18. ^ "Toyota workers out of jobs as car manufacturer closes Altona plant". ABC News. Australia. 6 December 2017. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Vehicle Exports". GM Holden. Archived from the original on 15 September 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
  20. ^ "Holden To Stay After Government Promises $270 Million Assistance". Australian Manufacturing. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  21. ^ "South Australia stunned as GM announces Holden's closure in Adelaide in 2017". GM Holden. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  22. ^ "Exports-2008". Toyota Australia. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  23. ^ "Exports-2011". Toyota Australia. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  24. ^ Dunckley, Mathew (10 February 2014). "Toyota confirms exit from Australian manufacturing in 2017". Port Macquarie News. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  25. ^ "Australia's chemical industry". Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  26. ^ "Chemicals in Australia". Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  27. ^ "Brand Tasmania". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  28. ^ "Cole Clark Acoustic Guitars | Australian Made Guitars". Cole Clark Guitars. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  29. ^ "Welcome to Maton Guitars - Handmade for the world stage for 70 years | Maton Guitars Australia". Retrieved 2 December 2022.