Chronic diseases and their associated risk factors pose significant challenges for health planners and policy makers in Australia. One of these is the task of establishing a system for their regular surveillance and monitoring. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing co-hosted a workshop in November 2001 to examine the issues and priorities in setting up such a system. Among the issues discussed were frameworks for surveillance and monitoring, data requirements, and linkage of this information to public health interventions and policy development. The main priorities addressed were biomedical risk factors and markers, behavioural risks factors and other psychosocial variables, and the utilisation and harmonisation of various types of data. This report provides an account of the workshop, its deliberations and outcomes.