Policy and strategies
We develop policies and work with experts, organisations and other agencies to protect Australia against disease outbreaks. We work to reduce the spread of communicable diseases and their impact on society, including their financial costs.
Our Office of Health Protection and Response, National Incident Centre, Population Health Division and committees related to communicable diseases all work to:
- develop national policy and guidelines, such as the Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs)
- administer disease surveillance systems and reporting
- guide a national response to outbreak incidents of national significance
- administer the National Immunisation Program
- provide expert advice and thereby reduce incidence of disease.
Initiatives and programs
We fund many programs related to communicable diseases.
Our National Immunisation Program provides free immunisation services for many diseases that can be prevented by vaccines.
Our Office of Health Protection and Response collects data on and coordinates responses to many communicable disease outbreaks.
We classify some diseases as nationally notifiable through the National Notifiable Disease List, an instrument under the National Health Security Act 2007.
The states and territories report notifiable diseases to our National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. This helps us better understand these diseases and the threat they pose to public health. We can then respond to disease outbreaks more effectively.
We collect, analyse and report this information from sentinel and laboratory surveillance systems.
If a disease of international concern arises, the National Incident Centre reports it to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The NIC also submits routine quarterly reports to the WHO.
Learn more about surveillance and reporting.
Response to disease outbreaks
When we consider a disease outbreak to be a national concern, we declare this and stand up the National Incident Centre.
If a disease outbreak affects multiple states or territories, we coordinate national action as outlined in the Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance. We:
- coordinate a national health sector response by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee under the guidance of relevant subcommittees and technical advisory committees
- coordinate investigation and control of communicable disease outbreaks by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia
- implement other emergency health management plans.
As part of a national outbreak response, each state and territory will:
- implement agreed public health responses to an outbreak in their jurisdiction
- report incidences of communicable disease to us
- administer crisis management in their jurisdiction
- work with the local community to respond to and recover from an outbreak.
Learn more about our role in emergency health management.
Awareness and education
We educate people with the facts on
- communicable diseases
- antimicrobial resistance
Consultation and engagement
We regularly consult the public about health issues. See our consultation hub for consultations related to communicable diseases.
We administer parts of the federal Biosecurity Act 2015. Learn about all legislation we administer.
Regulation and compliance
Some communicable diseases or other substance could be used as biological weapons. If someone deliberately released harmful agents, they could greatly affect humans, our environment and economy. Therefore, we regulate these substances under the Security Sensitive Biological Agents Regulatory Scheme.
We provide funding for research and emerging issues, including:
- research on debilitating symptom complexes attributed to ticks (DSCATT)
- a national research strategy for bloodborne viruses and sexually transmissible infections.
Who we work with
We work with other agencies in Australia and across the world. This gives us access to experts in the field so we can respond quickly and appropriately to disease outbreaks. It also helps us have high-quality input into public health decisions, policies and programs.
Our committees and groups provide a way for people and organisations to help us develop policies and provide advice on communicable diseases. Some of the main committees are:
- Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA)
- Public Health Laboratory Network (PHLN)
- Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Standing Committee (BBVSS)
- Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
Learn more about committees involved in communicable diseases.
We work closely with other agencies and organisations. This strengthens our approach to disease control.
- Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: Australian Government department that protects Australia’s natural resources and helps develop strong agricultural industries.
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ): Statutory authority in the Australian Government Health portfolio that develops food standards for Australia and New Zealand.
- Australian National CJD Registry: Responsible for national surveillance of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans in Australia.
- Kirby Institute: Health research institute at UNSW, Sydney, working to eliminate infectious diseases globally.
- National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS): Applies research to inform immunisation policy and clinical practice. It also supports initiatives in surveillance of diseases preventable by vaccines and vaccine safety, and evaluates immunisation programs.
- Australian Sentinel Practices Research Network (ASPRN): Network of general practitioners and nurse practitioners who report de-identified patient data on flu-like illness and some other conditions.
- Communicable Diseases Genomics Network (CDGN): Vision to advance public health in Australia and New Zealand by using microbial genomics to improve public health.