Since the detection of ovine Johne's disease in Australia in 1980, 578 flocks have been diagnosed as infected, with 442 of these still infected. The disease was initially believed to be confined to the central tablelands area of NSW, but has subsequently been shown to be more widely distributed. Sheep strains of M. paratuberculosis are known to infect sheep and goats in south-eastern Australia. Although sheep strains have recently been identified in some cattle in Australia, epidemiological evidence to date supports the distinction between ovine Johne's disease, caused by sheep strains in sheep and goats, and bovine Johne's disease, caused by cattle strains in cattle, goats and alpaca, as a basis for control and eradication strategies. Four national initiatives to control and better understand OJD are outlined. The Australian Johne's Disease Market Assurance Program for sheep was launched in May 1997. By December 1998, 548 flocks had achieved an assessed negative status. Three flocks assigned a flock status have subsequently been found to be infected. National standards for State control of Johne's disease through zoning, movement controls and procedures in infected and suspect flocks have also been developed. In addition, a $40.1 m National Ovine Johne's Disease Control and Evaluation Program was agreed to in August 1998, and is currently being implemented. It is jointly funded by National and State industries, and Commonwealth and State governments. Its objectives are to deliver, through research and surveillance, a solid basis for a future decision on the most appropriate course for dealing with OJD and to maintain control of OJD nationally. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.