Australia has strong rules on how non-human primates may be used for scientific purposes.

Those involved with the use of non-human primates must first ensure that there is no other way of obtaining the necessary information. If it is absolutely necessary to use non-human primates, their use must be ethical and humane, comply with all relevant legislation and meet the highest possible standards.

Any research we fund that involves the use of non-human primates must meet these requirements before it proceeds. We also provide guidance to assist institutions, members of animal ethics committees, researchers and carers meet their obligations.

Regulation and oversight of the care and use of non-human primates

Any care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes must be conducted in accordance with relevant Commonwealth and state and territory legislation and the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (the Code). The work must be approved by an animal ethics committee (AEC) before it begins.

The AEC must be satisfied that the use of non-human primates is justified, there is no alternative to their use, the minimum numbers are used, and methods used minimise any adverse effects on the non-human primates and enhance their wellbeing.

We produce the Principles and guidelines for the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes, which provides best practice guidance for this specialised area. 

More information is available in: Arrangements governing the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes in Australia (See downloads) 

NHMRC-funded research involving non-human primates

We recognise that there are differing views in the community about the use of non‑human primates for scientific purposes. We are committed to ensuring that any use of non-human primates in research we fund is absolutely necessary and that there is no valid alternative, and that their use is ethical and humane.

We do not fund research involving non-human primates unless the work is of high quality and significance as determined by NHMRC’s peer review process, and the work has been reviewed and approved by an AEC before it begins. We require the work to comply with relevant legislation, the Code and the Principles and guidelines for the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes.

NHMRC has provided grants to two non-human primate colonies from 1993 to 2018 – a baboon colony in NSW and a marmoset and macaque colony in Victoria, from 1993 to 2018. Between 1993 and 1997, NHMRC also provided a grant to a marmoset colony in South Australia, which was then merged with the marmoset and macaque colony in Victoria. The funding was to assist institutions responsible for the colonies to provide a consistently high standard of care of non-human primates to be used for research purposes. All NHMRC funding ceased in 2018. 

NHMRC does not have oversight of any animal facility in Australia. These facilities are overseen by the responsible institution, the animal ethics committee and the state or territory government. 

Importation of non-human primates

The Commonwealth is responsible for regulating the importation of non-human primates with respect to:

Under state and territory legislation, an AEC must approve the source of any non-human primates used for scientific purposes, and must be satisfied that any importation of the animals is necessary.

NHMRC’s Principles and guidelines for the care and use of non-human primates for scientific purposes requires non-human primates to be obtained from colonies in Australia or, if importation is essential, from captive-bred populations.

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Further information