Government veterinary services


Ratification Date: 04 Jan 2019


Government veterinary services must be maintained at sufficient capacity to meet the needs of Australia’s animal health environment now and into the future, as well as ensuring capacity to respond to animal health emergencies.

A gap analysis of staffing levels of veterinarians in local, state, territory and Commonwealth governments is supported, as well as ongoing periodic review and a commitment by governments to resource appropriately in response to this information.


Australia’s government veterinary services provide an important service to the public, including safeguarding Australian animal health and welfare, public health, food safety, and maintaining trade market access.

Government veterinary services are responsible for providing animal health policy and programs that underpin Australia’s favourable animal health status. Government veterinarians also work to address issues of national interest such as animal welfare and antimicrobial resistance, and play a significant role in One Health (domestic and wild animal health, human health and environmental health) initiatives.

The Australian Veterinary Association strongly supports the work of Australian government veterinarians at Commonwealth, state and territory levels.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services1 defines a veterinary service as ‘the governmental and non-governmental organisations that implement animal health and welfare measures and other standards and recommendations in the OIE Terrestrial Code and Aquatic Animal Health Code in the territory.’

In 2015, the OIE undertook a Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) evaluation in Australia2. The evaluation highlighted the importance placed by Australian government veterinary authorities, among others, on ensuring the delivery of strong veterinary services in Australia. Australia gained the highest rating the OIE confers, level five, for staffing levels. However deficiencies were identified in some jurisdictions; it was recommended that there be an in-depth gap analysis of staffing levels of veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals at jurisdiction level, with particular attention to emergency animal disease response capability and essential ‘peace time’ responsibilities such as surveillance and traceability functions.

This report noted that current staff numbers in some jurisdictions may weaken their capacity to effectively carry out surveillance work, and detect, prepare for, and respond to, an emergency animal disease outbreak. It also noted a reliance on private veterinarians that was not supported by any formal agreement to ensure their participation when required.

It is understood that the Animal Health Committee (AHC) has commissioned a jurisdictional PVS evaluation to assess the current status of all regional and interstate veterinary services, including veterinary laboratory services. The AVA welcomes this commitment by the AHC and the government to addressing these identified issues.

In a time of heightened risk from emerging disease, rapidly increasing trade in animal products around the world, unprecedented numbers of human movements through travel and resettlement, and the risk of exotic disease being used as biological warfare, it is imperative that Australia’s governments appropriately resource any gaps that are identified as a result of this review.

The PVS also noted that a group of para-veterinary staff were increasingly relied upon to undertake duties in the veterinary service, although this group is largely uncharacterised and unregistered. The AVA recommends that where veterinary para-professionals are used or intended to be used, the AVA should be consulted in developing the terms of use and registration requirements for this resource.


  1. The effectiveness of Australia’s veterinary resources should be regularly audited against the present and future risks to Australia’s animal industries, and any deficits addressed.
  2. Government veterinary staff should continue to be identifiable as veterinary positions, and the roles, responsibilities and naming conventions for veterinary positions should be protected.  Government animal health policies should be developed by veterinarians.
  3. Governments should invest adequately in their veterinary services as well as schemes which rely on the private veterinary sector and para-veterinary staff.
  4. Government para-veterinary staff should have both scope of work and qualifications standardised across jurisdictions.


This policy will be used to inform governments, agricultural industries and other stakeholders of the vital role that Australia’s Government veterinary resources play in protecting the enviable health status of Australian animals, animal welfare, public health and enhancing the market access available to Australia’s animal industries.


  1. OIE. The OIE Tool for the evaluation of performance of veterinary services (OIE PVS). 2013 update. http://www.oie.int/en/support-to-oie-members/pvs-evaluations/oie-pvs-tool/. Accessed 13 November 2017.
  2. OIE. PVS evaluation report: Australia. http://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Support_to_OIE_Members/docs/pdf/FinalReport_PVS_Australia.pdf

Further reading

ABARES. Promising outlook for agricultural exports. http://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/news/media-releases/2013/Promising-outlook-for-agricultural-exports

Animal Health Australia. Accreditation program for Australian veterinarians (APAV). June 5, 2017. http://www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au/training-centre/accreditation-program-for-australian-veterinarians-apav/. Accessed 13 November 2017.

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. National Guidance document on the engagement of private veterinarians during an emergency animal disease response. http://www.agriculture.gov.au/animal/health/engagement-of-private-veterinarians/national-guidance-document. Accessed 13 November 2017

Matthews K. A review of Australia’s preparedness for the threat of foot-and-mouth disease. Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, 2011. http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/animal-plant/pests-diseases/animal-pests-diseases/footandmouth.pdf. Accessed November 2017.

OIE. Objectives. 2017. http://www.oie.int/index.php?id=53#c201. Accessed November 2017.

OIE. Manual of diagnostic tests for aquatic animals, 6th edn. OIE, 2009. http://www.oie.int/international-standard-setting/aquatic-manual/. Accessed November 2017.

OIE. Manual of diagnostic tests and vaccines for terrestrial animals. 7th edn. Vols. 1 and 2. OIE, 2012. http://www.oie.int/international-standard-setting/terrestrial-manual/. Accessed November 2017.

OIE. Aquatic animal health code, 20th edn. 2017. http://www.oie.int/international-standard-setting/aquatic-code/

OIE. Terrestrial animal health code, 26nd edn. 2017. http://www.oie.int/international-standard-setting/terrestrial-code/

Vallis R. A veterinary awakening: the history of government veterinarians in Australia. Department of Agriculture Fishery and Forestry, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, ACT, 2011.

World Trade Organization. What is the WTO? http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/whatis_e.htm. Accessed November 2017.