The National Health and Medical research Council (NHMRC) is Australia’s leading expert body promoting the development and maintenance of public and individual health standards.
NHMRC brings together within a single national organisation the functions of research funding and development of advice. One of its strengths is that it draws upon the resources of all components of the health system, including governments, medical practitioners, nurses and allied health professionals, researchers, teaching and research institutions, public and private program managers, service administrators, community health organisations, social health researchers and consumers.
The mission statement of the NHMRC is Working to build a healthy Australia.
NHMRC's strategic objectives
Objective 1 – Raise the standard of individual and public health throughout Australia
Objective 2 – Foster the development of consistent health standards between the various States and Territories
Objective 3 – Foster medical research and training and public health research and training throughout Australia
Objective 4 – Foster consideration of ethical issues relating to health
Objective 5 – Build a better NHMRC
Legislative basis of the NHMRC
The National Health and Medical Research Council was first constituted in September 1936. The current legislative basis of the Council is the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 (NHMRC Act). The NHMRC is responsible to the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing.
NHMRC's functions come from the statutory obligations conferred by the NHMRC Act. The Act provides for the NHMRC to pursue activities designed to:
- raise the standard of individual and public health throughout Australia;
- foster the development of consistent health standards between the various States and Territories;
- foster medical research and training and public health research and training throughout Australia ; and
- foster consideration of ethical issues relating to health.
NHMRC became an independent statutory agency within the Health and Ageing portfolio on 1 July 2006. This change brought with it an amended NHMRC Act that defines the NHMRC as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Council and committees, and the staff of NHMRC.
NHMRC also has responsibilities under the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Act 2006 which came into operation on 12 June 2007. Obligations of NHMRC under the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 include the development and implementation of a program for reviewing and enhancing relevant guidelines, and the provision of administrative improvements in the licensing process.
Under the amended NHMRC Act, the CEO is the accountable officer directly responsible to the Minister for Health and Ageing for setting the major objectives for NHMRC, identifying new and emerging health issues and developing strategies to address these issues as they arise.
With the support of Council, the CEO is given the task of developing a strategic plan, and addressing and meeting with a Statement of Intent, the goals set out in the Minister’s Statement of Expectation.
Membership of Council and committees
For the 2009-12 triennium the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, deemed that NHMRC would require the following six Principal Committees in addition to the NHMRC Council:
- AHEC - Australian Health Ethics Committee
- Research Committee
- Licensing Committee
- HGAC - Human Genetics Advisory Committee
- HCC - Health Care Committee
- PCHC - Prevention and Community Health Committee
Other legislation and governance
Other than its functions as set out in the NHMRC Act, as a statutory authority NHMRC is also bound by the Public Service Act 1999, the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act), and other legislation and regulations as determined by the Public Service Commission (www.apsc.gov.au).
NHMRC corporate reporting
The NHMRC Act requires the CEO to develop a strategic plan setting out:
- the CEO’s assessment of the major national health issues that are likely to arise during the period
- the manner in which the CEO proposes to perform his or her functions in dealing with those issues during the period
- a national strategy for medical and public health research.
As a Commonwealth Agency, NHMRC must also prepare an annual report for the Minister of Health and Ageing to table in Parliament.