In 1976, the SAR Authorities formed a national conference to ensure consistency and uniformity in SAR procedures within the Australian search and rescue region (SRR). In 1999 a shift in perspective saw the group renamed the National Search and Rescue Council with the role of formulating, discussing and ratifying national search and rescue policies.

In 2004, the Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers responsible for search and rescue response in Australia signed an Inter‑Governmental Agreement (IGA) on National Search and Rescue Response Arrangements.

The IGA confirmed the National Search and Rescue Council's role as the national coordinating body for search and rescue procedures with a function, among others, of sponsoring the National Search and Rescue Manual.