The origins of the Society date back to the late 1970s when moves were made to coordinate a number of separate groups based in the metropolitan centres of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney into a national body . The South Australians were most active in the formative years and prior to the establishment of the first constitution, the Society was known as The National Respiratory Technical Group. Individuals involved in these early days and whom provided the early enthusiasm for the group included Alan Crockett and Sean Homan (SA), Gerri Hanna (NSW) and Judy Roget (Vic.).
The first scientific meeting was held in Adelaide in 1980, and the 1981 Annual General Meeting saw some major advances in the development of the Society. These included:
- A change in the name of the group to The Australasian Society of Respiratory Technology. The term Australasian was included in response to the significant interest exhibited in the Society from New Zealand.
- The creation of the first constitution of the Society.
- The election of the first Executive, with Alan Crockett as inaugural President, Ellen McIntyre as Secretary and Sean Homan as Treasurer.
- The election of the first Board. Foundational members of the Board were: David Sharp and John Atkinson (from SA), Margaret Bartholomew and Michael Brown (Qld), Judy Roget and David Johns (Vic.), Maureen Graves (Swanney) and Jenny Fleming (NZ).
The objectives of the Society were clearly defined in this first constitution and have not changed significantly to this day. They are:
- To provide a forum for scientific and technical communication between members of the profession
- To advance the knowledge of respiratory technology
- To promote excellence on respiratory measurement
- To encourage training and education in respiratory technology
- To facilitate dialogue with other professional societies with common interests
Early on it was recognised that dialogue with The Thoracic Society of Australia & New Zealand was an important consideration for ASRT members and the creation of communication channels with this group were established as an early priority of the Society.
Annual Scientific Meetings have been a major activity of the Society and have been held every year since inception of the Society. Venues have included each Australian state and the north island of New Zealand, and the number of attendees has steadily increased with over 100 delegates for the 1999 meeting in Camberra.
In 1982, the Society was incorporated in South Australia and in the same year Volume was created under the editorship of David Johns as the official journal of the Society. This periodical continued until 1988 and together with the development of the Annual Scientific Meetings over this time, introduced the Society to a level of professionalism not seen before.
In the late 1980s the Society further recognised the importance of proficiency in the field of respiratory science, and instigated the following:
- An amendment to the constitution such that ordinary membership of the Society required an appropriate tertiary qualification. This amendment was carried at the 1989 Annual General Meeting
- The possibility of a formal process of accreditation of respiratory workers to ensure a minimum competency level. Under the direction of Stephen West, the Certified Respiratory Function Scientist credential came to fruition with the first examination held in 1994.
To further reflect the evolving nature of the expertise, qualifications, duties and responsibilities of the general membership, the Society underwent a further change of name in 1991 to become The Australian & New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science.
In the early 1990s the Society played an active role in the development of a post-graduate certificate course for study in respiratory science offered by the Charles Sturt University. CSU has since introduced courses of study specifically in respiratory science at diploma, degree and masters level, and the Society has played an important role in the development of these unique courses. CSU also helped the Society establish its presence on the world-wide web in 1996 when the first Society webpage was created.
The Society newsletter was revived as the quarterly "Mouthpiece" in the mid 1990s and continues today as the primary means of communication between Society members. The newsletter plays an important role as a forum for discussion of important issues in respiratory science, as well as distributing general Society news.
Despite the rapid development in instrumentation associated with respiratory science and the implementation of standardised procedures for respiratory function measurement over the last quarter of the twentieth century, the fundamental requirements for excellence in the field of respiratory science remain the same as they did at the time of the formation of the Society. In this regard, the ANZSRS will continue to fulfil its objectives, whilst maintaining the flexibility it has already demonstrated to adapt to the changing requirements of respiratory science.