WA Syphilis outbreak response

This page provides information regarding the infectious syphilis outbreak affecting Aboriginal people living in the outbreak affected regions of Western Australia.

The infectious syphilis outbreak was identified in the Kimberley region in mid-2014 and a related cluster was identified in mid-2018 in the Pilbara region. The Goldfields joined the syphilis outbreak in mid-2019. Cross-border and cross-region population movement increases the risk of spread to adjacent regions. Of concern is the risk of congenital syphilis.

The declared outbreak regions are:

  • Kimberley
  • Pilbara
  • Goldfields
National response

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) Governance Group has developed a National strategic approach for an enhanced response to the disproportionately high rates of STI and BBV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Supporting the Strategic Approach is an Action Plan, which is the Enhanced response to addressing STI (and BBV) in Indigenous populations.

These documents, and additional information on the national response, are available at Australian Government Department of Health Infectious Syphilis Outbreak (external site).

In April 2015, a Multijurisdictional Syphilis Outbreak Working Group (MJSO) of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) (external site) was formed in response to this ongoing outbreak among young Aboriginal people living in remote areas of northern Australia.

The MJSO, with representatives from affected jurisdictions, sexual health physicians, experts in Aboriginal sexual health and the Australian Government Department of Health, advised governments to coordinate the public health response for the purpose of outbreak control and prevention of congenital syphilis.

WA Syphilis Outbreak Response Group (WA SORG)

The Western Australian Syphilis Outbreak Response Group (WA SORG) was formed in response to the syphilis outbreak among Aboriginal people in outbreak affected regions of WA. The WA SORG was formed and the first meeting held in August 2018.

The long term aim of the WA SORG is to control the outbreak of syphilis among Aboriginal communities in WA using partnership strategies that, wherever possible, are applicable to the sustainable control measures for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and promotion of sexual health in Aboriginal communities.


Working groups

Five working groups sit under the WA SORG and are responsible for progressing key actions related to the priority areas.

  • Prevention, education and community engagement
  • Workforce development
  • Testing, treatment and contact tracing
  • Surveillance and reporting
  • Antenatal and postnatal care
Sexual health regional coordinators

Regional sexual health coordinator positions are in place in the Goldfields, Kimberley and Pilbara regions. The role of the regional positions are to provide support to sexual health programs, guidance and expertise to health professionals working in the field. Specific tasks for the role include:

  • organising and/or facilitating orientation to the sexual health program for new staff working in the region
  • designing and implementing sexual health promotion strategies
  • Coordinating and/or providing education on sexual health and sexually transmissible infections to health service providers

Contact details for regional coordinators

Goldfields Public Health Unit
Tel: (08) 9080 8200
Email: WACHSGoldfieldsCommunicableDiseaseControl@health.wa.gov.au

Kimberley Public Health Unit
Tel: (08) 9194 1630
Email: WACHSKimberleyCommunicableDiseaseControl@health.wa.gov.au

Pilbara Public Health Unit
Tel: (08) 9174 1660
Email: WACHSPilbaraCommunicableDiseaseControl@health.wa.gov.au

New resources

*Further to discussion during the session it should be noted that on slide 27, the patient needs benzathine penicillin weekly for 3 weeks because they have syphilis of unknown duration (no symptoms, positive syphilis serology and no previous syphilis test result). Therefore, it’s important to be cautious and treat the patient as though they have had syphilis for >2years.

Watch the syphilis treatment video

Training / events calendar

A range of training and information sessions have been planned to support community health workers in sexual health. See below for information.

Name Location Date Start / Finish time How to register
Sexual Health in Primary Care Webinar 14 and 21 October 2020 7.30pm – 9.00pm Register online (external site)
Interpreting Syphilis Results  Video-conference 26 October 2020 12.00pm – 12.30pm Download the registration form (Word 60KB)
Start Talking About Relationships and Sexual health (STARS)
SHQ, 70 Roe Street, Northbridge 4 – 5 November 2020 9.00am – 4.30pm Register online (external site)

SHQ offer a variety of non-syphilis specific sexual health training for a variety of health workers. If this is of interest, you can find their training calendar at on the website (external site).

Relevant documents

More information

Communicable Disease Control Directorate
Address: Level 3A, 189 Royal Street, East Perth 6004 WA
Phone: (08) 9222 2131

Last reviewed: 29-09-2020
Produced by

Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program