About the Office of Health Protection (OHP)

This page contains information on the roles of OHP and the responsibilities of each Branch and Section.

Page last updated: 17 June 2014

First Assistant Secretary (Acting) – Kirsty Faichney

The mission of OHP, in partnership with key stakeholders, is to protect the health of the Australian community through effective national leadership and coordination and building of appropriate capacity and capability to detect, prevent and respond to threats to public health and safety.

Health Protection Policy Branch (HPPB)

Assistant Secretary (Acting) – Will Miller

HPPB provides national leadership, policy advice, analysis, coordination and communication of health protection strategies and responses to incidents of border health, biosecurity and blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infection. The key priorities for HPPB are:

  • Development of strategic approaches for current health risks in Australia, including assessing the vulnerabilities and approaches that need to be taken;
  • Management of the Torres Strait Cross Border Health Issues Committee;
  • Management of human health at the border including administration of the human health components of the Quarantine Act 1908 and implementation of International Health Regulations (2005) requirements;
  • Delivery of human health aspects of the Government’s biosecurity reforms, including development of new legislation to replace the Quarantine Act 1908;
  • Leading and coordinating the Government’s response to blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections in line with the priorities identified in the five National Strategies which address blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections;
  • Manage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual health policy and programs;
  • Coordinate International reporting on national response to blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections from government departments and national key organisations;
  • Development of a National Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Prevention and Containment Strategy;
  • Management of the General Practice Roundtable (GPRT), which works collaboratively with the Department under the direction of the Chair, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, to inform and provide advice to the OHP on a variety of issues that relate to the role of primary health care in emergency preparedness and response management. A summary of the latest GPRT meeting is available below.

Health Emergency Management Branch (HEMB)

Assistant Secretary – Rob Cameron

HEMB is responsible for effective surveillance of current and emerging communicable disease threats to the Australian population, in partnership with jurisdictions and other stakeholders. Further, the branch monitors and implements effective and sustained responses to national health emergencies and risks. These national health emergencies and risks include mass casualty events, communicable disease outbreaks, terrorism and natural disasters. The branch also provides strategic advice to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). The key priorities for HEMB are:

  • Managing the National Incident Room (NIR), including its infrastructure and NIR Workforce recruitment and training;
  • Ensuring Australia’s health system has integrated and coordinated arrangements to respond to both national and international health emergencies;
  • Managing the National Medical Stockpile (NMS), including inventory management, planning and developing memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the states and territories for deployment of the stockpile; including Implementation of recommendations from the strategic review of the NMS;
  • Providing national leadership on strategies to support the health sector and the whole-of-government to effectively respond to an influenza pandemic;
  • Overseeing the maintenance of the implementation plan and governance of the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre at the Royal Darwin Hospital for the purpose of local and regional disaster and trauma responses;
  • Administering the Security Sensitive Biological Agents Regulatory Scheme;
  • Building laboratory capacity to detect, identify and respond to existing and emerging communicable diseases and security sensitive biological agents;
  • Liaison with other Australian Government agencies and international fora on international and cross border health protection and surveillance matters;
  • Managing the Health sector Group of the Trusted Information Sharing Network for the Attorney-General’s Department’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience program;
  • Managing and monitoring, analysing and reporting on vaccine preventable diseases, including influenza, bacterial, bloodborne viruses and sexually transmitted infections, zoonoses, vectorborne and emerging infectious diseases;
  • Coordinating OzFoodNet, Australia’s enhanced foodborne disease surveillance network including liaison with FSANZ on current and emerging food safety issues;
  • Working closely with Communicable Diseases Network Australia on the development and maintenance of policies, systems for surveillance and analysis of communicable and emerging diseases;
  • Disseminate information on the epidemiology of communicable disease in Australia, through publishing the Communicable Diseases Intelligence journal;
  • Management of surveillance systems to collect surveillance data for nationally notifiable diseases, including National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance Systems, NetEpi and the Syndromic Surveillance Systems;
  • Manage the implementation of the Attorney-General’s Department’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience program;
  • National Focal Point for World Health Organization International Health Regulations 2005;
  • Managing the secretariat for AHPPC and three of its standing committees: National Health Emergency Management Standing Committee: Public Health Laboratory Network: and Communicable Disease Network Australia as well as associated committees;
  • Policy development and stakeholder liaison associated with the Health Protection Fund and Health Surveillance Fund; and
  • Collaborating with Joint Health Command and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in the Quadrilateral Medical Countermeasures Consortium.

Immunisation Branch (IB)

Assistant Secretary – Julianne Quaine

IB is responsible for the management of immunisation programs and policies to support the Government’s preventative health framework. The key priorities for IB are:

  • Implementing the National Immunisation Program (NIP);
  • A joint program with states and territories managed under the National Partnership Agreement on Essential Vaccines (NPEV);
  • Undertaking the procurement of essential vaccines for the NIP;
  • Development of a National Immunisation Strategy;
  • Developing evidence-based policy and technical advice to support the Immunise Australia Program;
  • Facilitating the ongoing management of the NPEV including performance indicators and liaison with states and territories;
  • Managing the financial aspects of the NPEV including management of supply contracts
  • Liaising with the Therapeutic Goods Administration on aspects of vaccine registration, adverse event monitoring and reporting in relation to vaccines on the NIP;
  • Liaising with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Division on Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee consideration of vaccine applications for the NIP;
  • Development, stakeholder management and liaison for the Communicable Disease Service Improvements Grants Fund;
  • Implementation of recommendations arising from the review of the management of adverse events associated with Panvax and Fluvax (Horvath Review);
  • Managing the Department’s agreements with:
    • the National Centre for Immunisation and Surveillance Research for the Immunise Australia Program;
    • Medicare Australia for the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register;
    • the Victorian Cytology for the Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Program Register; and
    • the Australian Medicare Local Alliance.
  • Provide secretariat support for:
    • the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation;
    • the National Immunisation Committee;
    • the National Immunisation Committee Data Subcommittee;
    • the National Immunisation Committee Data Subcommittee: Adult Vaccination Survey Advisory Group;
    • the National Immunisation Committee Smartphone Application Working Group;
    • the Jurisdictional Immunisation Coordinators;
    • the Horvath Review Implementation Steering Committee; and
    • the Horvath Review Working Party of Experts;

Office of Chemical Safety (OCS)

Assistant Secretary – Graeme Barden

OCS is responsible for human health risk assessment policy and practice for veterinary medicines and pesticides, ensuring that Australia fulfils its obligations under international agreements relating to the regulation of chemicals and for collecting statistics about chemicals. The key priorities for OCS are:

  • Using robust science to monitor developments, provide policy advice and regulate to address threats to human health posed by chemical and biological health risks;
  • Providing human health risk assessment advice to Australian regulators regarding pesticides and veterinary chemical products in order to protect the health of people using or otherwise exposed to these chemicals;
  • Supporting the regime of scheduling medicines and poisons, which ensures a uniform system for the classification of medicines, agricultural and veterinary and other chemicals, in the interests of public health and safety;
  • Regulating the import, export, and manufacture of controlled drugs and chemicals to fulfil Australia’s obligations under international drug conventions and national legislation;
  • Implementing the relevant COAG reforms related to the Productivity Commission’s Research Report on Chemicals and Plastics Regulation and managing a Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership to review the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme; and
  • Liaising with the Standing Committee on Chemicals on chemical regulation.

Medical and Scientific Advisory Unit (MSAU)

Principal Medical Advisor – Jenny Firman

The MSAU aims to ensure the clinical, scientific and public health skills and expertise of its staff are matched to the work priorities and program of the Office, the workflow is timely and outputs of a high quality, and the Unit is accountable against the objectives and priorities of the OHP. Key priority areas for the MSAU are:

  • Clinical, scientific and public health support to emerging health events on a 24/7 basis, through the OHP medical team during hours, and extended to the surge medical team after hours drawn from a pool of participating, trained Departmental doctors;
  • Ongoing support and advice to all aspects of health preparedness planning for pandemic influenza, including revision of the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza;
  • Clinical and public health input to policies and programs which focus on threats to human health posed by communicable diseases and environmental factors, with a focus on prevention and preparedness;
  • Ongoing support and advice to the NMS;
  • Supporting the development of biosecurity legislation to replace the Quarantine Act 1908; and
  • Input to the development and application of our evidence-based knowledge base in relation to the many arms of health protection.

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