Coordinating and supporting emergency health responses
The Department of Home Affairs leads the Australian Government’s planning and responses to disasters and emergencies. We manage the health aspects of these national plans.
We work to prevent, prepare for and respond to national health emergencies by:
- implementing the International Health Regulations (2005) in Australia
- developing and maintaining national health emergency management plans
- activating the National Incident Centre to coordinate national responses to health emergencies
- maintaining a National Medical Stockpile of essential medicines and equipment
- maintaining the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) capability through the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre
- providing both the public and health sector with advice and resources in response to emerging incidents.
Health protection committees
We support several committees involved in, or responsible for, health emergency management, including the:
- Australian Health Protection Principal Committee
- Health Sector Group.
When a national health emergency occurs, we publish news items to inform Australians about the situation.
We create health alerts to warn about disease outbreaks, and other health emergencies, that are affecting multiple states and territories in Australia.
To draw attention to active health alert content, we use a global banner that appears throughout the website.
Types of health emergencies
Chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack
We plan and prepare for the deliberate use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials by criminals or terrorists aiming to cause harm to people. Responding to the health aspects of such incidents is part of a broader government response. Our plans outline which agency takes the lead and makes sure that multiple agencies communicate clearly and make consistent decisions.
Learn more about our role in CBRN incidents of national significance.
Disease outbreaks and pandemics
When an outbreak of a communicable disease happens that is of national significance, our communicable disease emergency response plan is activated.
Learn more about our role in disease outbreaks and pandemics.
Bushfires, floods and natural disasters
The Australian Government provides help to the states and territories when natural disasters occur, including:
Learn more about our role in bushfires, floods and other disasters that affect our physical surroundings.
Find out more about the longer-term health impacts of environmental disasters.
Overseas mass casualty or fatalities
Where a mass casualty incident has happened overseas, we coordinate the national response as part of the response plan for overseas mass casualty incidents (OSMASSCASPLAN). The Department of Home Affairs manage this plan.
Incidents within Australia
An all-hazards incident of national significance may activate Australia’s Domestic Health Response Plan for All-Hazards Incidents of National Significance (AUSHEALTHRESPLAN). In response, we coordinate response arrangements for national health sector operations with a focus on:
- patient management and transfer
- health workforce availability
- providing resources.
We manage this plan.
Other emergency health support
People affected by health emergencies may also have access to:
- financial support
- health and medical support
- mental health support.
- financial assistance, health services and mental health support is available for communities affected by the 2022 flooding in Queensland and New South Wales
- mental health support is available to aged care residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.