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Welcome to the website of the:

Council of Australian Governments Standing Council on
   Health (SCoH) including the Australian Health
   Workforce Ministerial Council (AHWMC); and the

- Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council (AHMAC)

Terms of Reference of the COAG Standing Council on Health

COAG Standing Councils are established to:

a)      achieve COAG’s strategic themes by pursuing and monitoring priority issues of national significance which require sustained, collaborative effort; and

b)      address key areas of shared Commonwealth, State and Territory responsibility and funding. 

The Standing Council will pursue the following COAG strategic themes as its major focus areas:

1.      A Better Health Service and a More Sustainable Health System for Australia

2.      Closing the Gap for Indigenous Australians.


Chair rotates annually through each of the State and Territory member governments. 


Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers with responsibility for health matters, and the Commonwealth Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Scope of Standing Council

The Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have a shared intention to work in partnership to improve health outcomes for all Australians and ensure the sustainability of the Australian health system. In doing so, part of the Standing Council’s work will be to oversee the implementation of the COAG health reforms, which will deliver better health and hospitals by:

·         helping patients receive more seamless care across sectors of the health system;

·         improving the quality of care patients receive through higher performance standards, unprecedented levels of transparency and improved engagement of local clinicians; and

·         providing a secure funding base for health and hospitals into the future.

The Council will play an important role in the inter-jurisdictional management of key health reform areas during the implementation of national health reform.  It will provide a forum for Governments to address issues of mutual interest under the new health care arrangements and share best practice approaches, particularly with regard to health system management.

The Council will:

·         Fulfil regulatory/governance obligations that fall within the health portfolio in the areas of national registration and accreditation;

·         Ensure that the responsibilities given to Ministers with responsibility for health matters in various COAG agreements and decisions are met; and

·         Consider matters reported to the Council by relevant advisory groups.

The Council has responsibility for the following health areas:

·         Hospitals and related health services;

·         Community health and primary health care;

·         Population health, health promotion and prevention;

·         Indigenous health;

·         Mental health;

·         E-Health and information management;

·         Health workforce;

·         Aged care;

·         Clinical, technical and medico-ethical matters;

·         Chronic diseases, non-transmissible diseases and transmissible diseases;

·         Rural health and access to health services;

·         National Drug Strategy; and

·         Health related elements of emergency management and national security.

The Council will work closely with related Standing Councils, mostly notably the Standing Councils on Community, Housing and Disability Services.

Priority Issues of National Significance[1]

The Council’s priority issues are:

1.      Improving health outcomes for all Australians and ensuring the sustainability of the health system, which, in part, will result from implementation of the National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA);

2.      Improving efficiency in the health care system through the introduction of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record system, including the introduction of national healthcare identifier numbers, which will improve the interaction of health care providers across the sector;

3.      Implementation of COAG decisions on mental health reform in recognition of the impact that mental health issues have on Australian society ;

4.      Ensuring a high-quality and sustainable health workforce for the future of all health professionals and the health system,  including through continuing the implementation of the new National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health practitioners;

5.      Closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians;

6.      Ensuring that Health Workforce Australia delivers more effective, streamlined and integrated clinical training arrangements and supports workforce reform initiatives; and

7.      Providing a robust health and safety framework, including overseeing the development and adoption of best-practice health and safety initiatives and monitoring of standards to reduce medical errors and adverse events in the health sector.

Cross-Cutting Issues

In pursuing its priority issues of national significance, the Council will take into account the cross-cutting issues of Indigenous disadvantage, gender equality, and access to services for Australians with disability, with mental health issues, or in remote or regional communities.

Legislative and Governance Responsibilities

Responsibilities under the following instruments: 

·         Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (as in force in participating state and territory jurisdictions)

·         National Blood Agreement 2003

·         Australian Red Cross Blood Service Deed of Agreement 2006

·         Australian National Preventive Health Agency Act 2010.

Responsibilities for the following bodies:

·         National Health Performance Authority (to be established)

·         National Blood Authority

·         Australian Commission on Safety and Quality Health Care

·         Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

·         Health Workforce Australia (HWA)

·         Australian Health Practitioner Registration Authority (AHPRA)

·         National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA)

·         Australian National Preventive Health Agency.

The Council commits that by July 2016, specific references to the former Ministerial Councils in the above governing instruments will be changed to refer instead to the ‘Ministers responsible for health’.

Note that the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council (AHWMC) will continue to meet, under the auspices of this Standing Council, to discharge its legislative and governance obligations under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, until such time as specific references to this former Ministerial Council are changed.  The AHWMC membership comprises the Commonwealth Minister and Ministers from participating jurisdictions with portfolio responsibility for health.

National Agreements, National Partnerships and Inter-governmental Agreements

Responsibilities under the following National Agreements, National Partnership Agreements and Intergovernmental Agreement:

·         National Healthcare Agreement

·         National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement

·         National Health Reform Agreement

·         National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health

·         National Partnership Agreement on Hospital and Health Workforce Reform

·         National Partnership Agreement on the Elective Surgery Waiting List Reduction Plan

·         National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes

·         National Partnership  Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development

·         National Partnership Agreement on E-Health

·         National Partnership Agreement on Health Services

·         National Partnership Agreement on Health Infrastructure

·         National Partnership Agreement on Essential Vaccines

·         National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services

·         Intergovernmental Agreement for a National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the health professions.

The Council will assess the consistency of relevant National Agreements and National Partnership Agreements with the National Disability Strategy at review points under the Agreements, and consider the inclusion of strategies and performance indicators to ensure the needs of people with disability are addressed.


COAG considers that, as a general rule, Councils would not require more than two face to face meetings a year.

Meetings of Councils and officials will utilise the TelePresence network as much as possible to meet and to transact business, to minimise environmental impacts and meeting and travel costs.

Other operational arrangements are to be made by the Ministerial Council and do not require COAG endorsement.


Councils will make decisions on the basis of consensus wherever possible, unless specific voting rules are included in relevant governing instrument(s).

Where necessary, the principle of one vote per jurisdiction would apply.


The Council will provide COAG with an annual status report, due 31 July, on:

·         the progress/completion of its priority issues against agreed milestones;

·         the contribution made towards meeting the Closing the Gap targets;

·         any additional priorities that it believes should be addressed and submitted for COAG consideration;

·         key outputs or achievements from other inter-jurisdictional activities; and

·         decisions taken as a result of its legislative or governance responsibilities and changes made to legislation or agreements.

The Council will also provide a draft work plan for the following financial year annually by 31 May.

[1] Priority issues of national significance are reform-focused and warrant oversight by Ministers and by COAG.  They will change over time and do not necessarily encompass all aspects of the work of the Council.

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