Overview of the Public Health Laboratory Network (PHLN)

The Public Health Laboratory Network (PHLN) is a collaborative group of laboratories, which have expertise and provide services in public health microbiology in Australia and New Zealand.

Page last updated: 26 February 2014

The central purpose and role of PHLN is defined as the provision of leadership and consultation in all aspects of public health microbiology and communicable disease control. This is achieved through the continued development of a proactive network of public health laboratories to protect and improve the health of people of Australia.

An Australasian collaborative microbiology group

The PHLN was first established as part of the National Communicable Diseases Surveillance Strategy to complement the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA). PHLN is a now a subcommittee of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

Composition of the Network

The PHLN subcommittee is comprised of state and territory, expert, national and observer members. Each Australian state or territory represented on PHLN by representatives from one or two organisations, as appropriate. Larger organisations with separate bacteriology and virology expertise may nominate a representative from each.

National members include representatives from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) and CDNA. There is an expert member from the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza. Observer members include representatives from Private Pathology, Forensic and Technical Intelligence - Australia Federal Police and New Zealand Jurisdictions.

Vision Statement

PHLN’s vision is to be an action-oriented national public health microbiology network, providing advice and services that add value and form a foundation of the broader Australian public health system.

Terms of Reference

PHLN operates within the following Terms of Reference (TOR):

  1. Establish, maintain and expand collaborative links between pathology laboratories that have a public health focus (including veterinary pathology that has a human health impact).
  2. Promote best practice in all disciplines of public health pathology practice.
  3. Improve nationwide access to a comprehensive range of pathology and laboratory services for control of communicable diseases.
  4. Work collaboratively with other Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) subcommittees including the Communicable Disease Network Australia (CDNA), National Health Emergency Management Subcommittee (NHEMS), Environmental Health Committee (enHealth), and other relevant groups and organisations.
  5. Provide strategic advice to the AHPPC to identify gaps and needs, and to ensure optimal use of existing pathology laboratory resources for communicable disease surveillance and for response to outbreaks of national importance.
  6. Build on the existing capacity of public health laboratories to respond to communicable disease outbreaks and newly emerging infectious diseases.
  7. Respond to matters relating to public health microbiology, as referred by AHPPC.
  8. Fulfil these TOR to the best of the committee's ability within resources available to support these activities.


The strategies PHLN will use to meet the terms of reference include:

  • Regular (monthly) collaboration and consultation by teleconference and an annual face to face meeting with urgent teleconferences or other meetings as required;
  • Ensure regular consultation and communication out-of-session through email and other media as required;
  • Ensure continuity of function by succession planning for the PHLN chair and executive committee and membership of PHLN;
  • Participate in collaborative national and international workshops as required;
  • Continued development of nationally consistent guidelines for the detection and monitoring of notifiable infectious diseases;
  • Involvement in relevant research to detect emerging and rare infectious diseases and to develop detection methods that can be undertaken effectively in the field and in small and large laboratories;
  • Maintain a national and regional profile in public health microbiology;
  • Advise on funding and resources needed to address needs related to emerging and rare diseases;
  • Provide a first point of contact for all jurisdictional and national issues relating to laboratory diagnosis or surveillance of communicable diseases;
  • Develop relationships with relevant key jurisdictional officers especially Chief Health Officers and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee members;
  • Report jurisdictional detection of new or emerging infectious diseases to PHLN colleagues; and
  • Provide a mechanism for early warning and advice on the detection of new, emerging and rare infectious diseases.

Committee Representation

PHLN members are active on a broad range of public health microbiology committees where they can raise the profile of, and offer information and advice on behalf of the PHLN. Please refer to the Member Participation on other Committees, Subcommittees and Working Groups for details.


Secretariat support for PHLN is provided by the Department of Health.

Public Health Laboratory Network
MDP 140
GPO Box 9848
Canberra ACT 2601