The Department of Health and Human Services Human Research Ethics Committee (DHHS HREC) was set up in 1986 to deal with matters of human research ethics for projects carried out under the aegis of the Department, in accordance with guidelines provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
The National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 requires that all research 'involving or impacting on humans' conforms to the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007). Research that does not conform to these guidelines cannot be approved. Research must also comply with the Australian code for the responsible conduct of research (2007), which replaced the Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice (1997). Research that does not conform to these guidelines cannot be approved.
In 2001, the Terms of Reference of the Department of Health HREC were revised to encompass consideration only of research projects covered under the National Statement and those projects that require consideration of the ethical implications of accessing patient-level data from the Victorian Health Information Reporting System (VHIRS) and other Departmental databases.