CHF can trace its beginnings to 'A petition of reform addressed to the Minister', in May 1985, which called for a formal system of public participation to be built into the national health administration. A subsequent review of community participation undertaken by the Department of Health, recommended establishment of a Health Forum consisting of a coalition of community and consumer groups to provide a strong community voice on health issues. Government funds were provided to establish 'a health forum, made up of representatives of community groups to advise the government on health issues affecting Consumers in the 1986/87 Federal Budget'.

The health policy and health service delivery debate has shifted considerably since the Forums establishment. Consumer participation is well recognised by many politicians, policy makers and service planners. Although considerable gains have been made in many areas for the benefit of health consumers, the need for effective consumer participation is not universally accepted.

The challenge for CHF in the coming years is to maintain and enhance the recent gains made for consumers by articulating and contributing to effective consumer and community participation in health care policy and planning, service planning and delivery and research and evaluation.