Disease and pest surveillance

Animal Health Australia (AHA) works with its members to maintain Australia’s freedom from exotic animal disease, improve animal health and market access, and foster the resilience and integrity of the Australian animal health system.

Surveillance is key to meeting these goals as it enables prompt detection of disease outbreaks and publication of credible national reports on the health status of livestock and their products. Credible reports support policy development, decision making and trade. A requirement for evidence of disease absence is overtaking acceptance of absence of disease evidence.

Effective national surveillance of animal diseases in Australia requires cooperative partnerships among government agencies, livestock and wildlife organisations, commercial companies and individuals involved in animal industries.

Under the Australian constitution, the Australian Government is responsible for quarantine and international animal health matters, including disease surveillance reporting to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), export certification and trade negotiation. State and territory governments are responsible for animal health services, including disease surveillance, investigation and diagnostic services, and reporting of diseases, within their respective borders (jurisdictions). They deliver their services through government-appointed or government-accredited animal health personnel – district veterinarians, regional veterinary officers and local biosecurity officers.

In some cases, private veterinarians are contracted to the government to investigate suspect notifiable diseases. In all states and territories, official government veterinarians establish relationships with private veterinarians in their districts to allow effective collaboration during investigation of unusual disease incidents. National decision making and coordination for animal disease surveillance occurs through the Animal Health Committee (AHC).

In 2016, the AHC endorsed the National Animal Health Surveillance and Diagnostics Business Plan 2016–2020, developed collaboratively by governments and livestock industries. The Business Plan has guided the efficient and effective delivery of surveillance activities in accordance with nationally agreed objectives and priorities. The next Business Plan will be published shortly.