Population Health Research Network (PHRN)

Biological and life sciences, Biomedical and clinical sciences, Biotechnology - therapeutics - pharmaceuticals, Built environment - design - real estate, Climate science, Education and training, Environmental management and policy, Environmental sciences and technologies, Healthcare and social services, Indigenous studies, Public policy
Data access, Data infrastructure, Data linkage units, Data storage, Metadata, Specialised environments (grow rooms - secure remote access labs - laboratories)

About this Provider

Established in 2009, the Population Health Research Network is a national collaboration of specialist data linkage units that enable the linkage of health and human services data for important research. Researchers across Australia use this data to advance our understanding of disease, develop treatments and improve services for the benefit of all Australians. 


PHRN’s Program Office, oversees a network of Project Participants and Data Linkage Units located in each Australian state and territory that expertly link sensitive data, in ways that minimise privacy risks and meet legal and ethical requirements. PHRN also supports secure research environments and related e-research tools.

The PHRN was implemented through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy framework, an initiative of the Australian Government. Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies and academic institutions make significant cash and in-kind contributions to PHRN activities.

Contact Information


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PHRN is addressing Australia’s grand challenges in health services, new therapeutics, healthy ageing, social and environmental impacts on health, and prevention of emerging diseases.


Thousands of researchers, health professionals, government policy-makers and planners have used the PHRN’s vast resource of over 300 linked datasets to answer important research and evaluation questions. Our clients represent the following sectors. 

  • Universities and medical research institutes
  • State/territory and Commonwealth government departments and agencies
  • Non-government organisations
  • Industry

Our clients use linked data to:

  • Investigate the distribution, origin, associated conditions and outcomes of disease
  • Evaluate policies and services
  • Assess the health and wellbeing of Australians
  • Better identify issues of population health importance, plan services and interventions to address these issues
  • Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines, services, treatments and interventions.

The Population Health Research Network (PHRN) is dedicated to providing a suite of services that enhance the capability and efficiency of health research in Australia. Here is an overview of the key activities and services offered by the PHRN.

The Metadata Platform provides a centralised platform, to help researchers identify what linked datasets are available across Australia. The search, browse, and filter capability and presentation of metadata in a standardised format enables researchers to better evaluate the suitability of datasets for research. The platform also provides researchers with access to: data item lists, data dictionaries, and data quality reports; FAQs; and all peer reviewed journal articles and publications associated with each of the data collections.

Our established network of Australia-wide specialist data linkage units link and integrate large population datasets. These include:

  • Routine linkage between Australian Government, state and territory data collections (single jurisdiction linkage and cross jurisdiction linkage)
  • Ad hoc linkages of research and clinical trial data to population level data on request
  • Intergenerational linkage to establish links between individuals who are related.  Data may be used to assess the degree of relatedness of individuals within study samples, locate common ancestors, estimate genetic risk and describe the familial burden of comorbid conditions.
  • Geocoding by converting an address into a latitude/longitude, using a set of reference data. This map point can then be placed within spatial boundaries such as the Statistical Area Levels 1 and 2 (SA1 and SA2 respectively) and Local Government Area (LGA). Data Linkage Services assigns the boundaries and derives the indices using mapping and concordance tables created by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The PHRN has supported the development of linked data assets including the National Integrated Health Services Information (NIHSI), the National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) and the Covid-19 register and linked data set. Linked data assets bring multiple data collections together to make it easier for researchers to conduct complex cross-sector and cross-jurisdictional research. 

The Secure Unified Research Environment (SURE) is purpose-built for researchers and data custodians and provides a powerful and secure platform for both the sharing and analysis of sensitive health data. SURE offers data custodians a flexible and trusted way to share health data with the research community, while also giving researchers access to approved linked data. This national asset is used by over 700 researchers, and more than 50 government and health data custodians across Australia.

The Online Application System allows researchers who are interested in applying for access to linked data for cross and multi-jurisdictional research projects to apply directly via the PHRN Online Application System and track their applications.

The Online Researcher Training is a free online course designed to help researchers better understand linked data and navigate the access and approval process.

The PHRN consists of a national network of client services officers who support and guide researchers through the application and approval process. Client services staff advise researchers on the types of data collections available; project design and feasibility, data governance, logistics for data delivery, and provide cost estimates. To facilitate the application and approval process, the client services officers also liaise with key external and internal stakeholders on behalf of researchers, including technical and linkage project staff from the data linkage unit and data custodians.

We provide expert service to investigate emerging ethical and legal issues, provide advice on ethics, law and governance, and advocate for improved legislation, regulation, and policy to support sharing of sensitive data for research.


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The PHRN provides Australia with the capabilities to link and access a wide range of health and human services data across different jurisdictions and provides remote access to linked datasets in a secure environment.

The PHRN is comprised of seven data linkage units that, together, routinely link over 300 datasets across Australia, equating to 16 billion linked records. We now have close to two decades of core Commonwealth, state and territory health data linked at the person level.

Data collections span across sectors including: birth registrations and perinatal data; health; hospital; disease registries; education; families; justice; police; public housing; pharmaceutical; general practice; cohort studies; clinical registries; disability; and death registrations.






PHRN expertly links sensitive data and makes it available to researchers in ways that minimise privacy risks and meet legal and ethical requirements. We have expertise in the following areas:

Data linkage; Data extraction; 

Data linkage

Data extraction

Secure access environments

Research design



Data governance

Ethics and law

Social implications

In Australia, all research projects using linked data must be first submitted to the relevant data linkage unit to be assessed for technical feasibility. Formal approval must then be obtained from:

1. The data custodian responsible for each data set; and

2. All relevant Human Research Ethics Committee(s) (HREC).

Additional approvals may be required, depending on the data collection(s) involved and/or the jurisdiction. The approvals required for each data collection are listed in the PHRN Metadata Platform.

The process of obtaining approvals and the time involved will vary between data linkage units, data custodians and HRECs.

For more information, see https://www.phrn.org.au/for-researchers/data-access/

The PHRN is a national network of Project Participants and Data Linkage Units located in each Australian state and territory. The University of Western Australia is the lead agent of the PHRN. The PHRN is coordinated by a Program Office located in Perth, Western Australia.

Below are links to the PHRN data linkage units.



The Latest Updates

How we have helped

Provider case studies

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When Australian National University epidemiologist Associate Professor Rosemary Korda first started...
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Dr Stuart Newman

Therapeutic Innovation Australia

Since completing a PhD in Antarctic Biology from the University of Tasmania, Stuart has built up considerable experience of science policy, pharmaceutical R&D, grant funding, IP management, business development and commercialisation in the university and not-for-profit sectors.|

Stuart joined TIA as CEO in 2017. Under his leadership, TIA has focussed investment on the gap between research and development of high-value therapeutics, including pharmaceuticals, biologics, vaccines and cell & gene therapies. He also devised an innovative infrastructure access voucher scheme. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors

Beryl Morris

Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network

Merran Smith

Population Health Research Network

Merran is the inaugural Chief Executive of Australia’s Population Health Research Network and chairs the PHRN Participant Council. She is a past Director of the International Population Data Linkage Network (2019-2020) and current member of the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre Board.

Merran has an extensive background in science, health, and economics with strengths in strategic leadership and many years’ experience in Australia’s health and research infrastructure systems.  She is well versed in data management and oversaw the WA Department of Health’s Health Information Centre for more than 10 years. While with the Department, she established data linkage as a core service and served on Australia’s peak national health information committees. 

Prof Michael Dobbie

Phenomics Australia

Prof. Michael Dobbie has worked to establish and operate Phenomics Australia since its foundation in 2007, serving as CEO since 2013. Prior to leading the development and implementation of these national research infrastructures, Michael was a biomedical research with a PhD in Neurochemistry from the University of London and gained over 20 Years’ experience at the bench in field including genetics, vascular biology, cancer angiogenesis, neuroscience, metabolism, developmental biology, malaria and oxidative stress.

Mark Stickells

Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

Mark is a research executive with more than 20 years’ experience working at a senior level in innovative research and business development roles in complex, multi-stakeholder environments. Through national and international programs and joint-ventures, Mark had successfully led initiatives to accelerate the impact of research, development and education programs for Australia’s key energy, mining and agricultural sectors.
He is a former Chief Executive of an LNG research and development alliance of CSIRO, Curtin University and UWA, partnering with Chevron, Woodside and Shell. Prior to his appointment at Pawsey Mark led the innovation and industry engagement portfolio at The University of Western Australia. In addition, Mark is the current Chair of the Board of All Saints’ College and was appointed an adjunct Senior Fellow of the Perth USAsia Centre (an international policy think tank) in 2017.

Craig Humphrey

National Sea Simulator

Craig Humphrey has worked at AIMS for more than 25 years. He presently serves as the Director of the National Sea Simulator, a position he has held for the last two years. During the ten years preceding his directorial role, Craig was instrumental in the initial conceptualisation, creation, and implementation of the SeaSim. Prior to joining the SeaSim team, Craig worked as an experimental scientist at AIMS for 15 years, where he conducted research on various projects including fish ecotoxicology, inshore reef biological indicators of water quality, and coral reef climate-related studies.

Wojtek Goscinski

National Imaging Facility

Prof Wojtek Goscinski, with over two decades of leadership in research and innovation, heads the National Imaging Facility (NIF), Australia’s premier imaging network. As CEO, he oversees NIF’s collaboration among universities, research institutes, and government agencies. An Adjunct Professor at Monash University, he contributes to the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. Prof Goscinski’s notable past roles include founding MASSIVE, a high-impact national analytics facility. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee for Euro Bioimaging ERIC and has led significant international neuroinformatics programs.

Prof Sean Smith

National Computational Infrastructure

Sean Smith commenced as Director of the NCI in January 2018 and is conjointly Professor of Computational Nanomaterials Science and Technology at ANU. He has extensive theoretical and computational research experience in chemistry, nanomaterials and nano-bio science and technology.

Dr Lisa Yen

Microscopy Australia

Lisa is currently Microscopy Australia’s Chief Operating Officer and has over 15 years of experience in university administration, strategic research management in Centres of Excellence, and operations and management of national collaborative research infrastructure. She has been with Microscopy Australia since 2019. Lisa has a doctorate in cognitive science and a first–class honours degree in psychology.

Tamin Darwish

National Deuteration Facility (ANSTO)

Tamim leads the National Deuteration Facility at ANSTO, managing its operations and scientific advancements. With a Ph.D. in Chemistry, his expertise spans deuterium labeling, NMR spectroscopy, and organic synthesis. Tamim’s research focuses on creating deuterated molecules for advanced analytical techniques. His career includes postdoctoral fellowships and contributions to the field as a member of prestigious science communities and committees. His dedication to chemistry and material science is evident in his extensive work and achievements in the field.

Michael Steer

Southern Coastal Research Vessel Fleet

Professor Mike Steer is the Research Director at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), with over 20 years of expertise in marine science. He specialises in fish biology, fisheries science, cephalopod ecology, and fishery reform. Dr. Steer has led numerous research initiatives that have significantly advanced Australia’s seafood industry. He is known for fostering collaborations between academia and industry to address challenges in aquatic ecosystems. Prof. Steer holds a PhD from the University of Tasmania and serves on several national committees, including the National Coastal Research Vessels Working Group and the National Marine Science Committee.

Toni Moate

Marine National Facility (CSIRO)

Toni Moate is Director of the Marine National Facility and Director of CSIRO’s National Collections and Marine Infrastructure business unit. 

Toni is responsible for ensuring CSIRO’s national collections and marine infrastructure programs and research areas are effectively positioned, managed and utilised for long term financial sustainability and support science delivery in the national interest. 

Toni has extensive experience in strategic, financial, project and stakeholder management and has worked for CSIRO for over 30 years. In 2015 Toni was awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in Australian marine and atmospheric science, as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. This was followed in 2017 when Toni was awarded the Tasmanian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. 

Dr Michelle Heupel

Integrated Marine Observing System

Michelle Heupel, with over two decades in marine science, leads Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) at the University of Tasmania. Her work, pivotal in deploying oceanic observing equipment, supports marine and climate research. Heupel’s expertise in marine predator ecology, especially sharks, is recognized globally. She has a BSc in Zoology and a PhD in Marine Science, contributing to over 160 scientific papers. Her roles have included Vice Chair of Strategy for the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and advisor for the Ocean Tracking Network. Heupel’s dedication to marine conservation and management reflects her profound impact on the field.

Thomas McGoram

Heavy Ion Accelerators

James Whisstock

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Professor James Whisstock is based at Monash University, where he is currently an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, an Honorary National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellow and Deputy Dean Research in the Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences.

Ceri Brenner

Centre for Accelerator Science (ANSTO - Nuclear Science Facilities)

Andrew Gilbert

Bioplatforms Australia

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He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Andrew oversees the investment of $300 million in Commonwealth Government research infrastructure funding in the discovery sciences of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics.
Andrew has an extensive network of contacts from Commonwealth and State Governments, along with prominent universities, medical research institutes, agricultural research institutes and commercial entities. The Bioplatforms Australia network now supports 4500 users per annum across the spectrum of pure research to commercial production. In addition to managing the national infrastructure network, Andrew has also catalysed the formation of a series of strategic national scientific collaborations.
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Prof Pascal Perez


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Professor Perez has published 200 refereed articles and book chapters. In 2002, he received an ARC-International Linkage Fellowship to develop social modelling research at the Australian National University. In 2006, he co-edited with his colleague David Batten the book ‘Complex Science for a Complex World’ (ANU E Press).

Rosie Hicks

Australian Research Data Commons

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Richard Dichmann

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Dr Jane Fitzpatrick

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Prof Andy Hogg

Australian Earth System Simulator (ACCESS-NRI)

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Jamie Schultz

Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering (ANSTO - Nuclear Science Facilities)

Dr Debbie Eagles

Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (CSIRO)

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Debbie is a veterinarian by training and a World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) Reference Laboratory Expert on Bluetongue Virus. She is also enrolled as a WOAH and Australian Qualified Expert on the UN Secretary-General Mechanism’s (UNSGM) Roster for investigations of Alleged Use of Chemical, Biological or Toxin Weapons, has postgraduate qualifications in veterinary public health and has a special interest in interactions at the field/laboratory interface. Debbie has extensive experience in working in the Asia Pacific region, including in laboratory capacity building projects, in field investigations and through the provision of training courses.

Heath Marks

Australian Access Federation

Heath Marks was appointed by the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) in July 2009 to head a team to deliver the sustainable operations of Australia’s Trust and Identity services for Research and Education. This includes the national trust authentication framework the Australian Access Federation (AAF), and the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) Consortium Lead for Australia. He is an IT professional with a wealth of management experience in the successful delivery of transformational Information Technology within the tertiary education and research sector supporting the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). Heath participates in many national and international committees and working groups on trust, identity, cyber security, and company strategy. 

Tim Rawling


Tim Rawling is the CEO of AuScope Limited. AuScope is Australia’s provider of research infrastructure to the national geoscience community working on fundamental geoscience questions and grand challenges — climate change, natural resources security and natural hazards. Prior to this role, he was Director of Infrastructure Development for AuScope’s Australian Geophysical Observing System (AGOS). His recent research has involved the development of regional/crustal-scale 3D and 4D geological models as well as new exploration methodologies involving 3D modelling and finite element simulation. Tim’s background is in structural geology and IT and he has previously worked as a consultant exploration geologist, as the manager of the 3D modelling and simulation programs at GeoScience Victoria (DPI), as the MCA funded lecturer at the University of Melbourne, a commercial programmer and as a researcher at Monash University and the University of Arizona.

Dr Andre Zerger

Atlas of living Australia

Dr. Andre Zerger is the Director of the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA). The ALA is Australia’s national biodiversity database, harmonising the nation’s biodiversity data to support world-class science and decision-making.  The ALA is hosted by CSIRO and supported by the Commonwealth Government’s NCRIS program. Andre’s background is in the spatial sciences, environmental modelling with a focus on the ecological sciences, and spatially explicit hazard risk modelling. His career has focussed on establishing high-performing teams to deliver national data infrastructure transformations that support research, environmental management, and major government policy initiatives. He has previously led similar programs and held academic positions at the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO Ecosystems Sciences, The University of Melbourne, and the University of California.

Andre holds a Bachelor of Science with Honours (Geography, Monash University), a Master of Applied Science (Spatial Information Systems, University of Melbourne), and a PhD (Environmental Science, Australian National University). He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Mark McAuley

Astronomy Australia

Mark McAuley has worked for thirty years in research and development environments, with responsibility for securing investments, facilitating collaborations, and executing projects. As CEO of Astronomy Australia Limited, he is responsible for the NCRIS astronomy programme. Mark has previously worked for CSIRO, and in private industry, including six years in computer-aided engineering. His experience ranges from explaining science to young children to leading financial strategy discussions concerning billion-dollar research infrastructure projects.

Mark holds a Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts (Ancient History), and Bachelor of Science with Honours (Astrophysics). Upon completion of his MBA, he received the Vice-Chancellor’s Medal from the University of Notre Dame, Australia.