The National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network (NBCEN) produces nationally consistent public information in response to pest and disease outbreaks (biosecurity incidents) that impact on Australia’s agricultural industries.
The network consists of communication managers from the Australian, state and territory agriculture agencies, Plant Health Australia, Animal Health Australia, CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Australian Government Department of Health, and the Australian Local Government Association. Wildlife Health Australia and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions are Observers.
Communication essential during biosecurity incidents
Biosecurity incidents can impact on many people including affected producers/growers and their local communities, overseas trading partners, stakeholders such as exporters and supply chain service providers, the general public, and media.
The NBCEN facilitates the rapid and consistent dissemination of information that affected people need to prevent and respond to a pest or disease outbreak. Audiences may include affected producers/growers and their local communities, trading partners, the general public, media, and stakeholders such as exporters and supply chain service providers.
NBCEN also plays a pivotal role in pest and disease prevention and preparedness communication and stakeholder engagement activities.
Role of the NBCEN
The NBCEN’s role has expanded from its original focus on emergency animal diseases to include plant pests, diseases and weeds, as well as those that affect aquatic animals and the marine environment.
During a major biosecurity incident (in the ‘response’ phase), the NBCEN will:
- provide strategic communication advice to the relevant national Consultative Committee and National Management Group
- develop national talking points (key messages), and if required, a communication strategy
- operate in accordance with national biosecurity response arrangements including using emergency communication principles and procedures as described in the
Biosecurity Incident Public Information Manual (BIPIM)
- explain policies, plans and practices in a response to all stakeholders clearly, consistently, openly and quickly
- facilitate the flow of public information between the jurisdictions
- provide experienced communication officers to other jurisdictions (where available and/or necessary)
- publish content to the national pest and disease Outbreak website (outbreak.gov.au).
During non-response times, the NBCEN:
- reports to the National Biosecurity Committee
- coordinates communication preparedness activities for biosecurity incidents including
- crisis communication training (including participating in emergency response exercises)
- preparation and updates of communication tools, operation manuals and guidelines, resources and arrangements
- shares communication plans, research outcomes, lessons learnt, resources and other relevant materials with other NBCEN members.
The NBCEN is chaired by the Senior Executive Service officer responsible for communication in the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
The NBCEN’s core membership comprises relevant communication managers from:
- the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
- state and territory agriculture/biosecurity agencies
- Animal Health Australia
- Plant Health Australia
- CSIRO/Australian Animal Health Laboratory
- the Australian Government Department of Health
- Australian Local Government Association.
Wildlife Heath Australia and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions are Observers.
During an incident, the NBCEN expands its membership by inviting communication managers from:
- industries affected by the incident (that are signatories to either the Emergency Plant Pest Deed, the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement or the National Environmental Response Agreement
- other relevant Commonwealth, state or territory government agencies
- non-government environment organisations
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand
- the Australian Food and Grocery Council
- the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
- other groups identified as critical to the response.
The NBCEN meets face-to-face twice a year and by teleconference when required. The hosting of NBCEN meetings is rotated between its core members.
Following its face-to-face meeting, the NBCEN issues a Communiqué that outlines its current work activities.
The NBCEN Secretariat sits within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in Canberra and can be contacted by emailing