Chief Medical Officer on what the Australian CDC will and won’t do

Public Health Association of Australia logo. Icon of badge with three cogs inside it. Text: 'An Australian Centre for Disease Control. CDC Corner'.

Public Health Association of Australia

Professor Paul Kelly, Chief Medical Officer of the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care, has given a progress update to the public health community on the forthcoming Australian Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

He spoke during the Opening Plenary session of the Communicable Diseases & Immunisation Conference 2023, held 19 to 21 June. Keynotes in this session discussed future approaches to infectious disease prevention and control.

Health Minister Mark Butler highlights Australian CDC in welcoming address

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler speaking on screen. Background is of Parliament House.

Australia’s Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, discussed the Australian CDC in his conference welcome address. He said the entity was long overdue and emphasised that “It’s something that our government will deliver in our first term in office.”

“Already we’ve made progress to establishing a CDC, and bedding down the important formative foundations, but there is of course a lot more work to be done.”

“This funding [$91m announced in the May 2023 Budget] will support further consultation, and the required tasks to finalise the scope and the governance measures that will be put in place for the Centre.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated that Australia needs to be better prepared, both for future pandemics and the other health threats our country will face over the course of this century.

“The CDC will provide a national focus for this work, initially as a part of the Department of Health and Aged Care from the start of 2024, before becoming a standalone entity, something I’d expect to occur late next year after we go through the motions of Parliament.”


Prof Paul Kelly reflects on a year of progress

Professor Paul Kelly speaking on stage at the Communicable Diseases & Immunisation Conference 2023.

Prof Kelly began by reflecting on last year’s Communicable Diseases & Immunisation Conference 2022, where he also discussed the Australian CDC, just a month after the election of the new federal government in May 2022.

“I must say I felt very nervous because we had a new Minister I’d never met, and everyone wanted to know about the CDC [at the conference].”

He shared that “When I addressed the conference a year ago, I did speak about the CDC and I was very excited then, but nothing compared with how excited I am now.”

“We are so much closer to it becoming a reality.”

Prof Kelly noted that, in addition to supporting ongoing consultation, the $91 million over two years will “support scoping and preparatory work for a shared national disease surveillance system, expansion of health emergency planning and preparedness and data capabilities, and a review of existing health emergency governance structures.”

He also spoke of the extensive consultations so far, including that his team have “talked to many international CDCs, learning what to do, and importantly, what not to do.”

Phased approach

Prof Kelly said of the ACDC’s establishment that “a phased approach will be taken in a sustainable manner, with the Centre expanding its functions as they are settled in legislation and in consultation with the states and territories and key stakeholders.”

“An interim CDC will be established from the start of next year, located in Canberra as part of the Department of Health and Aged Care and I have the great privilege [of] heading up that interim ACDC in my capacity as Chief Medical Officer”.

“It is the government’s intent that an independent, standalone ACDC will be established following the passage of legislation expected late next year, with the operational details to be worked through over the course of the next 12 months.”

Officials are investigating different models for the entity, including a hub-and-spokes model.

What the ACDC will do

“I’ve set the task for my team to make it the world-leading organisation that will have an initial focus on preparing for future pandemics, leading the national response to infectious disease outbreaks, and working to prevent both communicable and noncommunicable diseases,” said Prof Kelly.

He also outlined a range of functions the ACDC will do, including that it “will provide a national focus for disease management to improve Australia’s capability to respond to health emergencies and other public health challenges.”

“It will be a nationally coordinated body, led by dedicated experts and driven by science and data that will strengthen Australia’s emergency response and ability to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of all Australians”.

“The ACDC will build on existing capability within the Department of Health and Aged Care, using an all-hazards approach, fill critical gaps in Australia’s public health system by driving national data and linkages, leading the nation on One Health approaches to human health, and enhancing public health equity for all people in Australia”.

What the ACDC won’t do

Prof Kelly stated that the Australian CDC:

  • “will not be established as a research organisation.”
  • “will not duplicate existing work done in the Commonwealth, states and territories, and non-government organisations.”

He also noted that they “do not intend for it to be involved in regulation or the provision of individual healthcare.”

What’s still undecided?

These include its:

  • Location
  • Operational model
  • States and territories’ governance role and possible co-funding role
  • Scope and functions, including its role for preventive health for noncommunicable diseases

Prof Kelly invited people with questions to contact the CDC establishment team on


Did you attend the Communicable Diseases & Immunisation Conference 2023 and want to catch up on session recordings? For three months following the event, access recordings via the conference virtual portal.

Are you a journalist interested in watching the sessions? Contact us at for access.



1 Comment

Leave a Reply