Health and medical research has played an important role in improving the life of Australians since before the 20th century, with many Australian researchers contributing to important advances both locally and internationally. The establishment of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to support research and to work to achieve the benefits of research for the community was significant. The NHMRC has also provided guidance in research and health ethics. Australian research has broadened to include basic biomedical science, clinical medicine and science, public health and health services. In October 2002, the NHMRC adopted Indigenous health research as a strategic priority. In 2013, government expenditure through the NHMRC was $852.9 million. This article highlights some important milestones in the history of health and medical research in Australia.