ARPA's origins go back to an antecedent group, the Religious Press Association, formed in 1960.
Its sole purpose was to combat proposed high increases in postage rates for registered publications. The RPA was a small, Melbourne-based group which included the Jewish press. In 1970, with a handful of key players having moved on or about to do so, the RPA held its last meeting.
From its ashes emerged a broader vision of a Christian press association which would be as much a professional industry body as a lobby group.
Enthusiasts like Gerald Davis (who had just launched Church Scene) and Nick Kerr (then president of the already active Australian Catholic Press Association) encouraged by colleagues like Bruce Upton (Bible Society) and ACPA's Fr Pat Cunningham, canvassed this idea widely.
It was decided to hold a conference immediately after the CPA convention in Melbourne to try to mount a trans-denominational press association. That gathering, called the La Verna Conference after its location, founded the Australian Religious Press Association, with Bruce Upton as founding president. ARPA held its inaugural convention in Canberra in May 1974.
In 1990, in recognition of the growing mutual interest and involvement across the Tasman, with the conference held that year in Auckland, ARPA formally established a New Zealand chapter and became the Australasian Religious Press Association.
ARPA now has a membership of 82 publications and 22 individuals as well as 64 staff members of the publications—168 members in total. The Association has a Code of Ethics and also adopts the code of universal media freedoms.
Its aims are to develop members’ skills, knowledge and professionalism; to offer opportunities for networking, fellowship and information-sharing among members; and to recognise excellence through the presentation of annual awards.
The Australasian Religious Press Association awards celebrate excellence in writing; design and creativity; and publishing. The awards are given for work published during the preceding calendar year.