The Australian Cardiovascular Health and Rehabilitation Association had its origins in 1988 when Australia was chosen to host the IV World Congress of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Broadbeach, on the Gold Coast of Queensland. The scientific program committee for this congress agreed to run a parallel non-medical stream. Speakers included Helen McBurney (physiotherapist), Brian Oldenburg (psychologist), Tom Briffa (exercise physiologist) and Jane Harris (social worker). These non-medical sessions proved extremely popular amongst the registrants.
At this Broadbeach conference Marian Worcester convened a meeting to discuss the desirability of forming a national association of cardiac rehabilitation. Speakers at this meeting included Dr Nanette Wenger from the USA. About 100 people attended.
An important outcome of this meeting was the recognition of how enthusiastic cardiac rehabilitation practitioners were about professional development. It further demonstrated the high level of interest and enthusiasm in establishing a multidisciplinary association
South Australia had already established a special interest group in the early 1980's, making them the first state to form an organisation for health professionals in cardiac rehabilitation.
In 1989, Victoria initiated a state association. In the same year New South Wales also established a state association. The inaugural meeting of the ACRA was held in February 1990 in Melbourne.
Since then, ACRA has spread to encompass all states and territories within Australia and has become a dynamic organisation. ACRA has developed mutually beneficial strategic alliances and has become an accepted professional body representing health professionals from multiple disciplines, realising the vision of the original Broadbeach meeting.
In 2006, ACRA members voted to change its name to the Australian Cardiovascular Health and Rehabilitation Association to reflect the true nature of the disease processes the membership interact with.
In 2010, the ACRA celebrated its 21st birthday at the annual conference in Canberra.