The establishment of NIFS was first advocated in a Committee of Inquiry Report to the Attorney-General of Australia in April 1974. The concept of an Institute was also recommended on several subsequent occasions, including by Sir Robert Mark in 1978.
The Institute was founded in 1991–1992 as a National Common Police Service under an agreement signed by the Australian Police Ministers’ Council and commenced its operations in Melbourne, Victoria in February 1992.
From 1992 to 2008, NIFS was overseen by a Board of Control consisting of a Chair nominated by the Federal Attorney General, three Police Commissioners and three forensic science laboratory Directors.
The Chair of the Board for that period was the Chief Justice of Victoria, Justice John Phillips AC, QC, who was a strong leader and supporter of the Institute. The Institute also had a multi-disciplinary Panel of Advisors.
In 2008, as a result of decisions by the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management – Police (MCPEM-P), NIFS became a Directorate (ANZPAA NIFS) within the newly-formed Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) which is hosted by Victoria Police on behalf of the Australia and New Zealand police jurisdictions.
It was then overseen by the Board of ANZPAA consisting of all of the Police Commissioners of Australia and New Zealand, the Chief Police Officer of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and representatives from Justice Departments and Police Ministries in several jurisdictions. There was also an Advisory Forum representing other key stakeholders.
In 2013, the ANZPAA Board initiated an Independent Review of ANZPAA NIFS.
The Honourable Frank Vincent AO QC was engaged to undertake the Review, and reported his recommendations to the Board in July 2014. As a result of decisions arising from the Review, a new planning and work program framework was approved for NIFS in 2015. The framework is underpinned by a three year strategic plan approved by the ANZPAA Board. The strategic plan is given effect through implementation of an annual business plan developed in conjunction with the Australia New Zealand Forensic Executive Committee (ANZFEC),comprising of representatives from forensic service providers of police and other funding agencies.