The introduction of Echinococcus to Australia over 200 years ago and its establishment in sheep rearing areas of the country inflicted a serious medical and economic burden on the country. This resulted in an investment in both basic and applied research aimed at learning more about the biology and life cycle of Echinococcus. This research served to illustrate the uniqueness of the parasite in terms of developmental biology and ecology, and the value of Echinococcus as a model system in a broad range of research, from fundamental biology to theoretical control systems. These studies formed the foundation for an international, diverse and ongoing research effort on the hydatid organisms encompassing stem cell biology, gene regulation, strain variation, wildlife diseases and models of transmission dynamics. We describe the development, nature and diversity of this research, and how it was initiated in Australia but subsequently has stimulated much international and collaborative research on Echinococcus.