In 1993 the NHMRC's Expert Panel on Perinatal Morbidity (chaired by Professor David Henderson-Smart) recommended that "The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Perinatal Statistics Unit, in collaboration with the directors and staff of all neonatal intensive care units, should develop a national minimum data set and implement a data collection to monitor mortality and morbidity of infants admitted to such units".
A prospective audit commenced in 1994 with all neonatal intensive care (level III) units in Australia and New Zealand contributing data on babies from 1 January 1995. In 1998, all level II units in New Zealand joined the Network and began contributing data. The level II unit in Tasmania joined in 1999, and most recently five level II units in New South Wales, four in Queensland, one in Northern Territory and one in Victoria have joined the Network. The Network has now begun to expand beyond Australia and New Zealand, with one neonatal intensive care unit from nearby Singapore joining in 2015.
Until 2008 the Network was hosted by the Centre for Perinatal Health Services Research at the University of Sydney. In 2008, the Network moved to be under the umbrella of the National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit (NPESU) (formerly Perinatal and Reproductive Epidemiology Research Unit) at the University of New South Wales. The relationship between the ANZNN and NPESU was set out in a Memorandum of Understanding between the parties, which was effective from 1st January 2008 until 31st December 2018. A renewed agreement extends this period to 1st February 2024.