Formation

Wildlife Health Australia Inc (Wildlife Health Australia: WHA) was formed in 2013 to extend the work of the Australian Wildlife Health Network (AWHN).

The formation of WHA is an important step in protecting Australia’s wildlife and natural environment.  WHA joins other public-private partnerships such as Animal Health Australia (AHA) and Plant Health Australia (PHA) in progressing Australia's shared vision and responsibility for animal and plant health, biosecurity and contributing to the protection of human health and the environment in Australia.

Current Priorities

Strategic Objectives 2016-17 to 2017-18

Wildlife Health Australia has six strategic objectives for 2016-17 to 2017-18:

  • Improve Australia’s overall national surveillance capability to support the protection of Australia's natural environment
  • Ensure early detection of significant health and disease events involving wildlife
  • Maintenance of response readiness for wildlife diseases
  • Improved ability to manage and respond to wildlife health and disease events
  • Improved knowledge of priority questions of wildlife health and diseases as identified by stakeholders and partners
  • Improved understanding of the risks posed to Australia by wildlife diseases.

Focus

Wildlife Health Australia focuses on nationally important and significant diseases with wildlife as part of their ecology, which may impact upon Australia's natural environment. Emerging, exotic, zoonotic, ecologically and agriculturally significant diseases are emphasised in the operations of WHA.  Diseases with feral animals as part of their ecology and those that impact upon biodiversity and natural ecosystems are a high priority.

An important part of our work has been in providing support for Australia's states and territories, animal health industries and Australia's Chief Veterinary Officer (ACVO).  At the direction of the ACVO, WHA now provides Australia's World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Wildlife Focal Point. WHA also continues to assist Australia’s states and territories in administering Australia’s general wildlife health information system and provides Australia's representative to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Veterinary Specialists Group.

Challenges

A future challenge for WHA is in continuing to grow and develop surveillance capacity, particularly in a changing climate of disease emergence, international translocation of pathogens through travel or trade, and new developments in industries including agriculture and tourism.

History

Wildlife Health Australia began life back in 1999 at a national workshop at the then CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology at Gungahlin, ACT and was originally established as the Australian Wildlife Health Network (AWHN) in 2002 as a national government initiative. The proceedings from that workshop is an interesting read if you would like to understand where we have come from including some of the needs and drivers and how people were thinking at the time (below).

 Development of the AWHN - The Gungahlin Proceedings