The 1968 Congress of the International Amateur Athletic Federation amended its constitution to allow Continental Area Associations to be formed. Two years earlier moves had already taken place within the Oceania Area to form a group of athletic federations for their common benefit and the progress of the sport within the region. On 21 August 1969, encouraged by the decision of the IAAF, the first Congress of what was then the Australasian Area Group – and is now the Oceania Athletics Association – was held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, at the time of the 3rd South Pacific Games.
At that initial Congress an interim regional committee was appointed to guide the formation of the new organisation. At the time there were nine federations in the Oceania Area which were members of the IAAF – Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and the New Hebrides (later Vanuatu) and Western Samoa (later Samoa) – although both Fiji and New Zealand declined to join the fledgling organisation.
At the end of the 4th South Pacific Games held in Papeete, Tahiti, two years later, a formal structure for the organisation and conduct of the Oceania Amateur Athletic Association was endorsed. Formal elections were conducted in accordance with a constitution that had been approved by the IAAF and Mr Arthur Hodsdon, from Australia, was elected as the Chairman of the inaugural OAAA Council.
Although the 1971 Congress had approved the payment of subscriptions by Member Federations, these did not raise sufficient funds to permit the payment of airfares to enable the members of the Council to meet frequently; when meetings were held, the members themselves, or their federations, paid for the cost of their attendance.
With the success of the 1st IAAF World Cup in Athletics which was held in 1978, came the allocation of grants of US$ 40,000 to support the administration and development activities of the association. This enabled the Council to meet more regularly, to publish a modest newsletter and to introduce coaching and development programs.
Consequently the influence of the OAAA became more apparent within Member Federations and its role as an Area Group of the IAAF became more meaningful. Over time, the quantum of IAAF grants to the OAAA has increased and the number and quality of programs and projects designed to develop the sport have also increased.
It was not until 1990, however, that the OAAA conducted its inaugural Area Championships in Athletics in Suva, Fiji. These Championships, for both senior athletes and those under 20 years of age, were enormously successful and demonstrated quite clearly the need for regional competition to support the development of the sport. In 1993, Area Championships for athletes under the age of 18 years were introduced at an event conducted in Canberra, Australia. Since their introduction, both divisions of the Oceania Area Championships have prospered and are now into their fourth editions. At the same time, the OAAA, in conjunction with the IAAF Regional Development Centre – Adelaide, introduced a highly successful program for elite athlete development to complement the opportunities provided by Member Federations and through regional competition.
The programs of the OAAA – competition, development and elite athlete preparation – have been designed to meet the expressed needs of Member Federations. In order to canvass the opinions of Member Federations and to encourage them to contribute to the formulation of policy and programs within the Oceania Area, a Development Conference was held at Victor Harbor in South Australia in 1992. The outcomes of this conference helped to set priorities and shape the regional development and competition programs of the association. The second such Development Conference was held in Nadi, Fiji, in 1997 where again the Member Federations of the OAAA met together to determine directions for the future. Existing programs were strongly supported and the proposal to introduce an Oceania Grand Prix series was endorsed. At the same time Member Federations requested the introduction of development activities within the three sub-regions of Oceania – Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia.
Consistent with the goals of all OAAA activities, women have played an important role in the governance of the sport of athletics in the Oceania region. In 1985, Mrs Margaret Mahony of Australia became the first woman member of the OAAA Council. In 1991, Mrs Anne Tierney, President of Athletics Cook Islands was elected to the Council and in 1995, Mrs Carina Castro, President of the Guam Track and Field Association, was also elected. Also at the 1995 Congress of the OAAA, Mrs Margaret Mahony was elected as the Association’s first Vice President and in 1997, Mrs Tierney was appointed as the Convenor of the OAAA Development Commission.
At the 1997 Congress of the IAAF, two new federations from the Oceania Area were admitted as members – the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. With the admission of American Samoa, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Norfolk Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Solomon Islands and Tahiti at previous Congresses, the number of Member Federations constituting the OAAA then stood at 18.
Since that time Kiribati has been added to the Association to become the 19th Oceania Athletic Association Member Federation.
In February 2007, the Oceania Amateur Athletics Association changed its name to the Oceania Athletics Association.
New Caledonia (NCL) became the first Associate Member of the Oceania Athletics Association in 2008.
At the 2009 OAA Congress Niue was officially named an Associate Member of the Oceania Athletics Association.
At the IAAF Congress in Berlin (August 2009) Tuvalu became the 20th Member Federation of the Oceania Athletics Association.
In July 2009, the Oceania Athletics Association became Incorporated in Queensland.