Telling the Children About AUKUS

The Nuclear Powered Submarine Propulsion Challenge


The Department of Defence and Stem Hub are running a competition for high school students in years 7–12 about nuclear­-powered submarines. Schools are asked to make an 8­-minute video about nuclear submarines and the winners from each state and territory will get an all expenses paid trip to the Stirling Naval Base in WA.

According to Defence media statements: "The Nuclear ­Powered Submarine Propulsion Challenge presents an opportunity for students across Australia to gain a greater appreciation of the STEM principles behind one of the most significant national projects ever undertaken in Australia"

'STEM' stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Defence says that that schools get “learning resources” about nuclear submarines through the competition. Which if it came from overseas might be called ‘propaganda’. But Australians only presents facts! STEM Hub’s aim ‘is growing Australia's high­-tech economy by increasing student participation in STEM learning by creating fun, relevant and engaging educational resources’. And, they say, ‘We work with innovative companies to create educational resources that contain real world examples of STEM in action’.

Very cogently, Stem-Hub says that it is, bringing the racetrack, airfield, the classroom. This is being done with the help of its partner BAE Systems whose name is on the front of some of Stem Hub’s classroom booklets. BAE Systems is a global weapons corporation; in their own words: We develop, engineer, manufacture, and support products and systems to deliver military capability, protect national security and people, and keep critical information and infrastructure secure.

And, ‘BAE Systems is Australia's most versatile defence and security company’. Moreover, as BAE Systems says, it will ‘play a key role in the delivery of AUKUS submarines’. It has already delivered five Astute class submarines to the UK Royal Navy ­ and this is the model
to be used in AUKUS ­ built in the UK. Running a competition for school children is small bikkies for a corporation which had revenue in Australia of ₤854million ($Aus 1,634 million) in financial year 2022. The vast bulk of this in defence contracts with the Australian Government.

Like weapons, there seems little subtlety in selling the idea of submarines to school


Howard Guille is a SEARCH Member, originally written for SEARCH News Vol II 2023.

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