The Department of Health is a department of the Government of Australia charged with overseeing the running of Australia’s health system, including supporting universal and affordable access to medical, pharmaceutical and hospital services, as well as helping people to stay healthy through health promotion, participation and exercise and other disease prevention activities.
The head of the department is the Secretary of the Department of Health, currently Glenys Beauchamp, who reports to the Minister for Health and the Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation, currently the Hon. Greg Hunt MP and Senator Bridget McKenzie, and the Minister for Aged Care and the Minister for Indigenous Health, currently The Hon. Ken Wyatt . The ministers are assisted by the Assistant Minister for Health, currently The Hon. Dr David Gillespie MP.
According to the Administrative Arrangements Order issued 18 September 2013, matters dealt with by the Department are:
- Public health, including health protection, and medical research
- Health promotion and disease prevention
- Primary health care
- Hospitals funding and policy, including relationships and linkages within the continuum of health care
- Implementation of the National Health and Hospitals Network
- Health research
- Pharmaceutical benefits
- Health benefits schemes
- Hearing services policy and funding
- Specific health services, including human quarantine
- Sport and recreation
- National drug strategy
- Regulation of therapeutic goods
- Notification and assessment of industrial chemicals
- Gene technology regulation
- Medical indemnity insurance issues
- Private health insurance
- Blood, Organ and Dental policy and funding
- Health workforce capacity
- Mental health policy and primary mental health care
The Department of Health (I) was established in 1921 and was the precursor to today’s Department of Health. The first Department of Health was dissolved in 1987, when it was merged with the Department of Community Services to form the Department of Community Services and Health.
In June 1991, the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services was formed when housing industry programs were transferred from the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce. In March 1993 the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs joined with the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services to form the Department of Health, Housing, Local Government and Community Services. Subsequently, in December 1993, the Department was abolished and replaced with the Department of Human Services and Health. Also in 1994, the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health was established.
After a new government was elected in March 1996, the Department of Health and Family Services was formed. The department also had responsibility for the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program from the former Department of Housing and Regional Development. Later, the department assumed responsibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health matters from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
After the October 1998 election, the Department was abolished and replaced by the Australian Federal Department of Health and Aged Care, named to reflect new responsibilities and functions. Responsibility for Family and Children’s Services, Disability Programs and the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service were transferred to the Department of Family and Community Services on 22 October 1998.
Following the November 2001 election, the Australian Federal Department of Health and Aged Care was abolished and replaced with the Australian Federal Department of Health and Ageing. The Australian Federal Department of Health and Ageing was abolished in 2013 and replaced by the current Australian Federal Department of Health on 18 September 2013 by way of an Administrative Arrangements Order issued by the Governor-General of Australia on the recommendation of the Abbott Government.