The History of CAWA

The History and Introduction of Calisthenics in Western Australia

This greeniesmakes for interesting reading. Like any new venture, it was hard work and perhaps those early days could be well described by the famous words of Sir Winston Churchill – “blood, sweat and tears”.

But out of it arose a companionship one had to experience to appreciate it. A group of people whose hard work and dedication laid the foundation of our organisation as it is today.

It was the desire of the late Frank Boan OBE, Director of Boans Limited, after seeing a display in Adelaide by the Bay Girls Calisthenics Club of Glenelg, South Australia, to explore what avenues were available to start such a movement for the youth of this state.

Frank Boan influenced a decision to bring the Bay Girls Club to Perth for the purpose of public demonstrations during the 1956 Royal Show.

Working through Torchbearers For Legacy – another of Mr Boan’s interests, contact was made with several leading persons engaged in youth activities here to assess their interest. A meeting was advertised calling for interested people to attend and experienced teachers to come forward. That meeting was convened on the 12th December 1956.

The meeting was chaired by Mrs V.Stockman MBE JP, the then State President of RSL Women’s Auxilliaries, but also associated with Legacy, and attended by President for Torchbearers for Legacy Mr Stan Hunter, plus representatives from the Girls Friendly Society, YWCA Youth Activities, 5 other ladies and Mrs Margaret White, formerly from Bayside Calishtenics Club, Melbourne.

It was agreed to elect a Committee which resulted in the late Mrs Reynolds being voted as the first President, Miss Leggett Secretary/Treasurer (ex Legacy), Mr Frank Boan Patron and Mrs Margaret White Senior Instructress.

Then came the task to name the organisation and “The Girls’ Rhythmic League” was the one chosen from four suggestions. Class fees and annual memberships were set and the names of almost 100 girls had been taken to commence classes.

The first classes were scheduled and commenced in January 1957 at two venues with Mrs Yvonne Taylor (formerly Clifton Calisthenics College, Melbourne) at the YWCA Perth, and Mrs Margaret White (formerly Bayside Calisthenics Club, Melbourne) at the YAL in Perth. Later in 1957 Mrs White opened a second class in South Perth, which later became the main teaching area.

So the Girls’ Rhythmic League (now known as CAWA) was born, affectionately known for many years as the GRL.


Where We Began

Calisthenics had its origin in Victoria and was brought to Western Australia in 1957 by Mr Frank Boan, who could see the advantage this activity would have to young girls and young women and promoted it in Perth. It was originally known as – “The Girls Rhythmic League”.

lhs-senrodsPerth had need of such an activity for young girls and the first classes opened at the YWCA, St Georges Terrace. It was apparent from the beginning that the work had a great future here, but the intake of members and the formation of suburban branches had to be limited, due to the lack of trained teachers.

A special Teacher’s Training class relieved this situation considerably, but the demand still exceeded the supply. The League grew to 11 Branches throughout Perth and suburbs, with a membership of over 1200 girls between the ages of 5 and 25 years. Five teachers had qualified by examination and approximately 45 more were in training and assisting in the various classes conducted by the League. Each year new districts were probed to determine future class venues.

1958 saw the first GRL State Team leave Perth to view the Australasian Calisthenic Championships conducted annually at South Street Hall, Ballarat, and to compete in the Peninsula competitions, Melbourne. An invitation to GRL to visit South Australia in August 1960 was received and accepted when four teachers, a pianist and chaperone travelled to their Annual State Competitions. The following January, two South Australian teachers visited Perth to conduct holiday classes at the YMCA.

In 1962, 200 members from South Australia visited Perth for demonstrations and in 1963 WA Junior, Intermediate and Senior State teams visited South Australia for competitions.

In 1973 “The Girls Rhythmic League” acquired a hall and adjoining building at No. 3 Flynn Street, Churchlands, which was to be a training venue and meeting room facility and office for the League. It continued to house the League until 1980 when its name changed to the “Calisthenics Association of WA (Inc)”. In September 1988, with the approval of all member branches, it was sold to a developer.

The needs of the Association have far outgrown the facility. The beginnings of a new and exciting venture has begun.

Various avenues were investigated and led to negotiations with the Shire of Swan. The Calisthenics Association of WA (Inc) was granted land at the Midvale Sporting Complex at Midland on which to build a facility to cater to the needs of the Association well into the future.

In 1988 the initial work commenced to build the first purpose built calisthenics venue in Australia at Gray Drive, Midvale. A 600 seat auditorium fully equipped with lighting and sound and a full size elevated stage with sprung floor was built. The site originally included a large foyer, ticket box, kiosk, excellent parking facilities, dressing rooms, 10-m2-stage area, small committee room and office. Following extensions in 1995 a larger office and current committee room was added, further extensions in 2001 saw the addition of another wing of dressing rooms on the east side, plus an amenities room and disabled toilets.

The unique aspect of this building was that the members of the Association built it on a voluntary basis. The parents who had building skills, eg plumbing, electrical etc donated their valuable time to the project. Many people gave up every weekend for 2 years to travel to Midvale, and work on the site, doing all the manual labour required. The plans were drawn up by the President of the time Jeff Freeman, an architect, who also gave his expertise and time freely for the betterment of calisthenics in WA.

The building was finished in 1990, in time for WA to host the National Championships. Indeed the first night was the official opening of the theatre, with all competing states and territories performing a specially choreographed routine for the occasion. The men and women who had built the theatre voluntarily were all acknowledged individually. Sir Charles Court officially opened the new Swan Park Theatre in July, 1990.

Now the theatre is hired extensively by schools, colleges, dance schools, community groups and international touring companies for many events including competitions and concerts. This of course is in addition to the calisthenics competitions and clubs usage.

We are proud of our theatre and its history and invite you to come and visit us. If you would like a tour of the theatre, our office is open between 9am and 1pm most days. Please phone on 9274 3958 to make an appointment.


Where are We Now

CAWA has grown into a strong sporting association. We currently have 15 clubs located both in the metropolitan and regional areas of Western Australia. The Association is governed by the Board of Management comprising of President, Vice President, Deputy Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Rules and Regulations Chairperson, Competitions Chairperson, Theatre Management Chairperson, Development Officer, State Team Manager, Calisthenics Skills Administrator, Coaches Representative and Adjudicators Representative.

lhs-hayley-soloOur competitions have grown to include the Hills Districts Graceful Solo Competition held annually in April, an August competition, Calisthenics Solos and Duos competitions in November. These competitions are in addition to the State Championships Graceful Solo Competition in May, and the State Championships Team Competitions in September.

Each April a club hosts ‘A Taste of the Stage’ Concert. This concert is held to introduce our many new subjunior aged members to the sport of calisthenics and the stage.

Every year many girls audition for the CAWA State Team in Sub-Junior, Junior, Intermediate and Senior age groups. Members are selected to represent Western Australia at the Australian Calisthenic Federation National Championships which are hosted by a different State each year.

Though the ‘Nationals’ are the main competition for State Teams, individual clubs may compete at the Royal South Street Eisteddfod in Ballarat. This competition is held in October and presents a special challenge to the coaches and competitors that enter. In the past, 2 WA clubs have won the Senior Championship Aggregate, the highest standard club competition in Australia, plus our graceful competitors have won the prestigious Senior Graceful Calisthenics Solo competition. Calisthenics was first introduced at this eisteddfod in 1903, and it is ‘the’ event to win on the calisthenics calendar, as clubs from across Australia travel to Ballarat to compete.

In October, the CAWA holds the Future Stars Concert, to welcome our very young participants and our volunteers are acknowledged for their wonderful work. Each club nominates people for various awards, and each CAWA sub-committee also nominates a member who has performed the job ‘above and beyond’ the normal requirements. Coaches receive their awards and special trophies are presented to recipients. Non Competing teams showcase their wonderful talents and proceeds are donated to the Amanda Young Foundation to assist in the education and fight against Meningococcal Disease.

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