As early as 1953, at a meeting of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Sydney, there had been preliminary discussions about the development of a new organisation of medical practitioners interested in rheumatology. Interested persons were circularised by Dr Ray Robinson and on receipt of responses which favoured such a course of action, Dr John Hunter of the BMA was consulted and approval sought from the Federal Council. Dr Selwyn Nelson undertook these negotiations, and approval was given subject to production of suitable rules. Approval for the formation of the Australian Rheumatism Association-BMA was finally given by Federal Council of the BMA on 19 December 1956 when the Rules as compiled by the Acting Secretary had been passed by the Steering Committee and approved by the Federal Council.
A meeting of the Steering Committee of the proposed association was held on 18 January 1956 at BMA House Sydney. Dr Parr took the chair. The draft rules were modified and passed. In accord with the rules of the BMA in regard to specialist associations, it was agreed to form initially three groups – NSW (to include members from QLD and the ACT), Victoria (including members from SA and Tasmania) and WA.
The first meeting of federal delegates of the ARA was held on 18 August 1956 at the postgraduate committee rooms of the University of Sydney at 131 Macquarie Street, Sydney. At this inaugural meeting the office bearers were elected: President: Dr L Parr, Senior Vice President: Dr G McEwen, Vice President: Professor Lovell, Secretary: Dr R Robinson, Treasurer: Dr P Benjamin. All were elected unanimously and members of the Association were instructed to form groups in their respective states in accordance with the rules of this Association.
The Association had been formed to bring together medical practitioners and others interested and qualified in the study of rheumatology and to promote the understanding of rheumatic diseases within the medical fraternity and the general Australian community. The membership of the Association included Foundation, Ordinary, Honorary and Associate members. Foundation members were those present at the inaugural branch meetings of the Association held in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
The Australian Rheumatology Association was incorporated as a public company, limited by guarantee on 21 December 1984.
Establishment of Branches:
NSW - The NSW Branch of the Association was constituted at the meeting of the Steering Committee on 18 January 1956.
VIC - The first formal meeting was held on 17 September 1957.
WA - Established 1956.
SA – First formal meeting was held in April 1967.
QLD – Queensland Branch of the ARA formed in 1964.
Both SA and QLD formally admitted to the ARA at the meeting of the Council in October 1966.
List of ARA Presidents from Foundation to Present