Overseas Specialist Surgical Association of Australia Inc.(OSSAA) was initiated in 2002, but was instigated in the early 1990s through Dr John C Hargrave AO MBE. Dr Hargrave was a respected leprosy specialist, hand and burns surgeon who was based in the Northern Territory from 1956. He had identified the need for reconstructive surgical services in neighbouring Eastern Indonesia and commenced volunteer surgical missions.
Many people in this region suffer from severe physical deformities and disabilities arising from leprosy, burns, trauma, poliomyelitis and congenital defects. For these people there was (and still is) no ready solution as surgical services are not available in rural areas and remedial operations in the main centres cannot be afforded.
In the early 1990s, Dr Hargrave led small volunteer teams of specialist doctors and nurses into Timor under Northmed, providing reconstructive surgical programs in rural areas. In 1995, Dr Hargrave incorporated a surgical group as ASEA Rehab (Australia South-East Asia Rehabilitation Foundation), a Northern Territory based organisation comprising of mainly local specialists and supporters. Over time the team composition expanded to include more interstate specialists and nurses, particularly from South Australia.
When retiring in 2000, Dr Hargrave supported the re-forming of ASEA Rehab as a South Australian registered organisation (with national membership) to maintain and expand the highly valued reconstructive programs undertaken in East Timor, West Timor and West Papua. The transition from ASEA Rehab to OSSAA was completed by 2002.