The Federal Health Council (the precursor to the National Health and Medical Research Council) was established in 1926 following a Royal Commission's recommendations. Membership of the Council then consisted of the Commonwealth Director General of Health and the Chief Health Officer of each State.
The first meeting of the new NHMRC was held in February 1937 and was taken up mainly by discussion on medical research, including the 30,000 pounds allocated for grants in the first year. Since then the Council has consistently supported and stimulated health and medical research, keeping them closely linked to public-health issues and the community's need for health advice. In 1966-67, total grants exceeded $1 million for the first time and in 2000, the annual total was $180.4 million.
One of the inaugural grants went to John Carew Eccles (1903-1997), who in 1963 shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine with Sir Alan Hodgkin and Sir Andrew Huxley for his pioneering work on the chemical means by which signals are transmitted by nerve cells. Much of his research - primarily undertaken overseas - focused on the part of the brain that controls posture and movement.
NHMRC became an independent statutory agency within the portfolio of the Australian Government Minister for Health and Ageing, operating under the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 (NHMRC Act) on 1 July 2006.
National Institute of Clinical Studies
Following an Australian Government decision in August 2006, the National Institute of Clinical Studies (NICS), was incorporated into NHMRC on 1 April 2007.
While NICS staff continued to work on programs initiated prior to 2007, as part of NHMRC they also undertook initiatives to align with NHMRC’s strategic objectives. This included continued work to bring the best available evidence into everyday practice such as clinical guideline implementation and clinical leadership initiatives. Some of the former NICS projects and materials are summarised on the National Institute of Clinical Studies archive page.