National Health and Medical Research Council

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NHMRC's role

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.

NHMRC's mission

The mission statement of the NHMRC is Working to build a healthy Australia.

NHMRC's priority actions

NHMRC’s priority actions, as set out in the NHMRC Strategic Plan 2013-15 tabled in the Australian Parliament on 18 January 2013, are to:

  • Create new knowledge through support of discovery research
  • Accelerate research translation
  • Build Australia’s future capability for research and translation
  • Set high standards in ethics in health care and research
  • Work with partners – States and Territories, health bodies, health industries and community and consumer groups

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.

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.

Other legislation

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 Act 2002 and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 including 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 NHMRC Act, the CEO is directly responsible to the Minister for Health and Minister for Sport, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, 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 develops the NHMRC 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

The NHMRC Council is established under the NHMRC Act to advise the CEO and perform functions conferred on it.

The functions of the Council are:

  • to provide advice to the CEO in relation to the performance of his or her functions;
  • any other functions conferred on the Council in writing by the Minister after consulting the CEO; and
  • any other functions conferred on the Council by the NHMRC Act, the regulations or any other law.

For the 2012-15 triennium NHMRC has the following six Principal Committees in addition to the NHMRC Council:

Other legislation and governance

Other than its functions as set out in the NHMRC Act, as a non-corporate Commonwealth entity, NHMRC is also bound by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, the Public Service Act 1999, and other legislation and regulations as determined by the Public Service Commission.

Governance and administrative structure

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 entity, NHMRC must also prepare an annual report for the Minister of Health to table in Parliament.

Page reviewed: 27 October, 2014