Frequently asked questions – Public Health Act

The Public Health Act 2016 (new Act) (external site), together with the supporting Public Health (Consequential Provisions) Act 2016 (external site), are now law in Western Australia.

These Acts will repeal much of the outdated Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911 (external site) and are designed to better protect and promote the health of all Western Australians.

As there is a significant amount of work required to transition to the new regulatory framework, the Acts will be progressively introduced over the next 3 to 5 years. The timeline for implementation outlines five key stages to the implementation of the new Acts.

Read the frequently asked questions to learn more about the key features of the Public Health Act 2016 and what the new legislation will mean for WA.

Further enquiries about the Act should be emailed to publichealthact@health.wa.gov.au.

What is the purpose of the Public Health Act?

The Public Health Act 2016 provides a flexible and proactive framework for the regulation of public health, with key features including:

  • promoting public health and well-being in the community
  • helping to prevent disease, injury, disability and premature death
  • informing individuals and communities about public health risks
  • encouraging individuals and their communities to plan for, create and maintain a healthy environment
  • supporting programs and campaigns intended to improve public health
  • collecting information about the incidence and prevalence of diseases and other public health risks for research purposes
  • reducing the health inequalities in public health of disadvantaged communities.

New and modern law is needed to protect the health of Western Australians. The Health Act 1911 is limited in that it:

  • makes reference to out-dated public health risks and issues
  • deals with issues that have since been captured by other legislation
  • does not address emerging public health issues such as bio-terrorism, new industries and epidemic chronic diseases
  • is prescriptive and reactive.

The Public Health Act 2016 provides a modern, flexible and proactive risk based framework for the regulation of public health. 

What are the key features of the new Act?

The key features are as follows:

  • a risk based framework which provides a set of regulatory tools which can be applied to regulate any given risk to public health
  • the binding of the Crown which gives effect to the principle that all persons are entitled to the same public health standards
  • a modern framework for infectious diseases that uses four public health tools to aid in the prevention and control of the spread of infectious diseases and related conditions
  • a modern framework for public health emergencies which provides for the exercise of wide scale where there is an overwhelming need to take action to protect public health
  • public health planning that requires government to take a strategic and forward thinking approach to protecting and promoting public health
  • public health assessments that provide for an assessment of the public health risks and benefits arising from particular proposals to be undertaken in conjunction with existing approval processes
  • a coordinated and streamlined approach to regulation that provides that all regulation relating to broad policy areas will be consolidated and streamlined into single regulatory instruments
  • appropriate penalties that will deter unlawful conduct thereby preventing or minimising harm to public health
When does the new Act take effect?

As there is a significant amount of work required to transition to the new regulatory framework, the Public Health Act 2016 will be implemented in a staged manner over the next 3 to 5 years. 

This means that the old Health Act 1911 (which will be known as the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911), and all regulations made under the Health Act 1911, will continue to be the main enforcement tool, until the new provisions of the Public Health Act 2016 are proclaimed over the coming years.

Who enforce the new Act?

Local governments are the recognised enforcement agency for public health matters within their jurisdiction.

Local governments delegate the power to enforce the Act to “authorised officers” (previously known as environmental health officers). Authorised officers are responsible for investigating any public health related matter.

What happens to the Health Act 1911 and regulations?

Yes. The Health Act 1911 will be retained in an amended format and re-named the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911. It will contain various matters relating to public health such as community health centres, child health and Mortality Committees.

The following regulations will be retained under the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911:

  • Health (Notifications by Midwives) Regulations 1994
  • Health (Rottnest Island) By-Laws
  • Health (Section 335(5)(d) Abortion Notice) Regulations 1998
  • Notification of Stillbirth and Neo-Natal Death Regulations
  • Registration, Enforcement and Discharge of Local Authority Charges on Land, Regulations.

The following regulations were transitioned under the Public Health Act during stage 4 of implementation:

  • Blood and Tissue (Transmissible Diseases) Regulations 1985

The following regulations were repealed at stage 4 of implementation and replaced by the Public Health Regulations 2017 (external site):

  • Health (Immunisation by Local Governments) Regulations 2000
  • Health (Notification of Adverse Event After Immunisation) Regulations 1995
  • Health (Venereal Diseases) Regulations 1973
  • Health (Notification of Intussusception) Regulations 2007

The timeline for implementation provides further details of the staged approach to implementing the Act.


More information

The Department of Health will provide support to the various agencies that have a role in administering and enforcing the new legislation. Support will also be provided to industry and the general public. 

Local government should refer to resources on the local government enforcement agencies webpage. 

Any enquiries regarding the Public Health Act should be emailed to publichealthact@health.wa.gov.au

Last reviewed: 06-10-2020
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate