Starc was expected to be retain his place ahead of the in-form Jhye Richardson but the final batting spot was the closest decision that needed to be made after Alex Carey was confirmed as wicketkeeper.
Head has edged out the experienced Usman Khawaja to regain the place he lost midway through the series against India last season. He had been included in the squad for the postponed tour of South Africa earlier this season.
Head has made 394 runs at 49.25 this Sheffield Shield season with two centuries, including one in the most recent match against Queensland, after a lean spell with Sussex in county cricket, while Khawaja has scored 460 runs at 65.71 with a brace of hundreds.
"It was a tight one," captain Pat Cummins said. "The selectors make the call, both really good options, in really strong form. The experience from Uzzie is great and we are really lucky to have that but Trav has been playing a lot of us in the last couple of years and has churned out runs."
Head's overall Test record is an average of 39.75 from 19 matches with two centuries. He played in four of the 2019 Ashes Test with a top score of 51 before being left out of the final match when Mitchell Marsh was drafted in. He returned at the start of the following home season during which he made a century in the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand. He averages 46.66 in home Tests.
Cummins also revealed that it was likely that he would not take the new ball, at least to start with, instead putting it in the hands of Starc and Josh Hazlewood. He said that Starc had been hitting his stride in training over the last few days.
"He's building up nicely, we had a really good centre-wicket yesterday, he was fast, he was swinging the ball big. We weren't surprised but it was great see. You've got some of the best batters in the world, Steve Smith, Marnus who looked like Starcy was a handful. So good signs."
With much attention on how Cummins will manage himself as a fast-bowling captain, he added that he would be fielding at mid-off most of the time but would not be afraid to take the occasional over down at fine leg to refresh if needed.
That could leave some of the immediate decision-making in the hands of vice-captain Steven Smith who is set to take on a more active role in the new leadership pairing.