The Association had its genesis in Alice Springs in 1998 in the coming together of representatives from many different industry groups from all around Australia, community art centres, Indigenous artists, art dealers, galleries, advocacy groups and academics with a view to establishing a framework to build a truly national organisation.
It was felt by many within the Industry that with the growth of Indigenous art both nationally and internationally, the establishment of an Industry Code of Ethics and an Industry Body was long overdue. After several days of debate and discussion from all sectors, a Code of Ethics was hammered out and the Art Trade Association was established.
The purposes and objects for which the Association have been established are set out in the Company's Constitution. These are:
(a) to foster a commitment to excellence in product, presentation and service in the sale of Indigenous artworks throughout Australia;
(b) to foster consumer confidence in those dealing in Indigenous arts and crafts;
(c) to promote honesty and integrity in dealings between the public, museums, Indigenous artists, their representatives, and dealers in Indigenous art;
(d) to develop, promote and uphold the Code of Ethics of the Association;
(e) to enhance the professional standing of the Members by compelling observance of strict rules of conduct and by requiring a high standard of knowledge of Indigenous art, as a condition of membership;
(f) to develop stronger ties between dealers in Indigenous art and with Indigenous artists, their agents, arts bodies and Government;
(g) to promote financial accountability in the relationships between retailers, agents and manufacturers and the Indigenous artists with whom they work;
(h) to provide support for contemporary Indigenous artists;
(i) to encourage emerging Indigenous artists;
(j) to assist in the development and promotion of a national standard for authentication of Indigenous artworks;
(k) to bring together members of the Association for the mutual improvement and higher education of one another;
(l) to promote the interest of members of the Association in all matters affecting the good standing of their corporate reputation.
(m) to admit and recognise as Members of the Association only such persons as shall conform this Constitution, the Association's Code of Ethics and any other rules which are made from time to time by the Board;
(n) to promote, support or oppose legislative or other measures affecting the business interests of Members and the welfare of aboriginal artists and the Art Centres that represent them;
(o) to promote the role of artists and community organisations in the preservation and maintenance of the cultural life of Indigenous communities;
(p) to collect, maintain and circulate to Members statistics and other information in regard to the Indigenous art trade or any legislation affecting it, and to print, publish, issue and/or circulate such papers, pamphlets, periodicals, books, circulars and other written material as may appear to be conducive to any of these objects;
(q) to undertake the arbitration, settlement and adjudication of disputes between Members, arising out of trade and commerce;
(r) to subscribe or guarantee money for charitable or benevolent objects, or for any public, general or useful object but in particular those relevant to the Indigenous arts;
(s) to do all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the objects and the exercise of the powers of the Association.