Foundations for the Future - The Commonwealth Government's commitment to health and medical research

Page last updated: 08 May 2007

The story so far

Twenty years ago, if you were born deaf you lived your life in silence. Some babies just died in their sleep for no apparent reason. Cancer was a major cause of death and the death rate was growing. And you still thought your stomach ulcer was caused by stress.

Today, thanks to medical research, we live in a world where Cochlear implants give sound where there was silence. We now know about risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). We can vaccinate against the principal cause of cervical cancer. And a glass of bacteria-infested broth has taught us that this is what causes stomach ulcers.

These breakthroughs are Australian health and medical research at work. They sometimes take years to develop. And they do not come cheaply.

Recognising this, the Commonwealth Government has made the funding of medical research, and building the infrastructure capacity to support it, a priority.

From 1995–96 through to 2009–10, there will be a five-fold increase in the Commonwealth Government’s investment in health and medical research. Funding for medical research grants through the National Health and Medical Research Council will have increased to around $700 million a year by 2009–10.

In 1999–2000, in response to the Health and Medical Research Strategic Review (the Wills Review), the Government doubled research spending with a funding increase of $614 million over the next six years.

In 2003–04, recognising the importance of providing state-of-the-art facilities for researchers to continue their work, the Government funded the medical research infrastructure initiative:
  • $5 million for the Garvan Institute
  • $5 million for the Hunter Medical Research Institute
  • $5 million for the Queensland Institute of Medical Research
  • $5 million for the Westmead Millennium Institute
  • $2.5 million for the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
  • $2 million for the Brain and Mind Research Institute
  • $2 million for the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research
  • $1.4 million for the Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology
  • $1 million for the Howard Florey Institute
  • $1 million for the Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research
  • $1 million for the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
  • $125,000 for the National Ageing Research Institute
  • $100,000 for the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia
  • $100,000 for the Wesley Research Institute.
In 2004–05, the Government announced major investment of $200 million over seven years to help independent medical research institutes.

In 2005–06, the Government’s expenditure on health and research grants was $430 million, more than double that of 1999–2000.

In 2006, we provided a further $215 million for infrastructure for medical research facilities to support them to undertake capital works and build important medical research capacity.
  • $50 million for the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
  • $37 million for the Howard Florey Institute
  • $15 million for the Westmead Millennium Institute
  • $14 million for the Garvan Institute and Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
  • $10 million for the Baker Heart Research Institute
  • $10 million for the Centenary Institute
  • $10 million for the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia
  • $10 million for the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health
  • $10 million for the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
  • $10 million for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre
  • $10 million for the Queensland Brain Institute
  • $6 million for the Sydney Melanoma Unit
  • $5 million for the Gallipoli Research Foundation
  • $5 million for the Hunter Medical Research Institute
  • $5 million for the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research
  • $4 million for the Marshall Centre for Infectious Diseases
  • $2 million for the Brain and Mind Research Institute
  • $2 million for the National Adult Stem Cell Research Centre.
In the 2006–07 Budget, the Government provided a $690 million boost to research grants, fellowships and specific research agendas. This included $500 million for research into new medical knowledge and technologies with the potential to prevent or treat disease and improve the lives of Australians.

The Government also provided a further $20 million towards establishing the National Adult Stem Cell Research Centre.

This ongoing commitment and support is producing real results. Australia punches above its weight in health and medical research. The biotechnology figures are a telling example. The Commonwealth Government has helped the biotechnology industry to grow by investing close to $1 billion in public biotechnology from 2002–03. The number of Australian biotech companies increased from 68 companies in 1992 to 370 in 2004.

Today, on a per capita basis, our research output is twice the OECD average. With 0.3 per cent of the world’s population, Australia produces about 2.5 per cent of the world’s health
and medical research output. Australia is a world leader in health and medical research – and this Government is committed to ensuring it remains so.