OTARC was established in 2008 as a joint initiative of La Trobe University and Autism Victoria (now trading as Amaze) with Professor Cheryl Dissanayake as the inaugural Director. The establishment of OTARC was made possible with private donations from Mrs Olga Tennison and matching funds from La Trobe University. The Centre is named in acknowledgement of Mrs Tennison's generosity.
OTARC has been involved in three federal government initiatives:
- Early Days workshops
- Raising Children Network
- Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre (Margot Prior Wing)
OTARC also ran an Early Assessment Clinic until 2015, as well as founding the Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR) and being an Essential Participant in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders.