The ACF is the national body of calisthenics in Australia. It was formed in 1986 with the aim of developing:

  • national standards for the quality of coaching, adjudication, rules and pupil skills
  • a national competition
  • growth strategies for the sport
  • policies for modern day governance and conduct in accordance with requirements of the Australian Sports Commission, which are then adopted by the State Sporting Associations.

download pdf» ACF Annual Report 2012

What is Calisthenics?

The word calisthenics comes from the Greek words ‘kallos’ for beauty and ‘thenos’ for strength. Indeed, the components of the sport aim at achieving those physical attributes, but the sport also influences the emotional and social development of girls and boys through friendship and teamwork.

Calisthenics is an artistic sport unique to Australia. It combines dance, gymnastics, singing, apparatus manipulation and ballet, and performed in theatres. It involves a team of pupils learning routines choreographed to music – each of about three to four minutes duration – and presenting those routines at competitions. Pupils learn approximately six routines concurrently throughout a year and this is where the diversity of the sport is seen.

In addition to team work, participants can compete in solo and duo items.

There are different levels of Calisthenics; some clubs are non-competitive, performing only at their annual concert. Other teams compete during the year at a number of competitions, performing on stage in costumes. Clubs throughout Australia offer classes for pupils aged three years and over and some offer masters classes.

Sport or Art? – Calisthenics can be categorised as both. As a sport it encourages physical development, coordination, self-discipline and team spirit. As an Art it develops an appreciation of music and rhythm, the beauty of line and the excitement of presenting on stage.


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By Jodie Dearsley, DCC Club President

Based in Berry on the picturesque South Coast, Diamond Calisthenics Club (DCC) is the first and only non-Sydney based calisthenics club in New South Wales. Founded in 2013, DCC was borne out of dreams, commitment and love of the sport.

The Dearsley family had been members of the Sylvania Calisthenics Club since their eldest daughter, Elicia, was 2. Mum, Jodie and all four kids had been participants. When the family had an epiphany and decided to make a tree change to beautiful Berry, about two hours south of Sydney, they were surprised that their primary concern was grief concerning calisthenics:- what would happen with the sport they loved so much?

Before making the decision to go, they took two of their dedicated coaches out for brunch and discussed their dilemma. Jodie joked that Miss Amanda (Hardy) could come down with them and start the “Sylvania South” Club. This impossible hope planted the seed for the events of the next three years, and became Elicia’s dream.

The family moved early in 2011 and having realised they really couldn’t live without cali – at least for their two eldest daughters Elicia (then a Junior) and Aimee ( then a Sub Junior) – they travelled up to Sydney twice a week for team and solo training. Sylvania were fantastic and accommodating, putting both girls’ team and solo trainings on back-to-back and starting class as late as possible to allow for their 3 hour one-way commute after school. Despite all possible accommodations, it was impossible for the rest of the family to attend their allotted trainings hence continue with the sport.

After two years of travelling the 400kms round trip to calisthenics after school and work and back to school and work the next morning, the Dearsley’s dedication to calisthenics had to give-way to the reality of life. The strain on the family had become too great, with fights in the car, two kids suffering car sickness, the need to find weekly accommodation in Sydney, inability to establish roots in their new home town etc. Jodie eventually succumbed to the truth (being told to her for two years by her husband, Matt), that this was not sustainable.  It was with a very heavy heart that Jodie announced near the end of 2012 that the Dearsleys would be retiring from calisthenics at the end of that year – Elicia’s 10th year of service.

No-one was prepared for the response which ensued from Miss Lisa (Wells) at this announcement; nor will they ever forget it:- “If the Dearsley’s can’t come to cali, then cali will come to the Dearsley’s!”. Those words were music to Jodie’s ears, and from that moment, it was game on. In hindsight Matt appreciates he was making a rod for his own back by agreeing to this proposal – inerrantly thinking how much easier it would be than travelling 800km to Sydney a week for calisthenics classes. How wrong he was, as he loses his wife and family to classes for 9 hours each Saturday, as well as his wife to cali planning and admin until all hours of many mornings.

Obviously neither Jodie nor Lisa had ever started up a not-for profit community organisation , nor a cali club before!! Yet nothing was stopping Lisa and Jodie from establishing the club they (and the girls) would name Diamond.  With a vision for all members to shine bright in every facet of their lives through their experience of the dance sport calisthenics at Diamond Calisthenics Club, Jodie (Mum of 4 on a farm who works as a School Counsellor) and Lisa (who works full time as a banker in the City) were single minded about bringing their beloved sport to the South coast of New South Wales for the first time.

From website design to book keeping, marketing to media, spruking to supervising, coaching to catering, debt collecting to music cutting, contracts to costuming, newsletters to entry forms, purchasing to donation seeking, etiquette to equipment, NSWCAI committee meetings to cooking BBQ’s…Jodie and Lisa turned their hand to everything. Thankfullly, early in the piece, through media coverage prior to the season, a cali “old girl” from South Australia from the ‘60’s, Miss Rhonda (McNally), contacted Jodie to offer her services as a volunteer and her help has been invaluable. And Elicia, to whom cali was everything;  gave everything of herself to cali:– so much so that for her services to her Club she has been nominated for the Australia Day Award for Shoalhaven Young Citizen of the Year 2014.

At their inaugural annual “September Spectacular” concert, Jodie commented that it was just as well we she and Lisa were naive novices when they decided to make real Elicia’s dream, with little idea of what and how much work would be involved with setting up a cali club, as they certainly wouldn’t have started had they seen the vastness of the road ahead. Yet looking back over the Club’s first year, they are proud of their achievements…in taking a sport unknown on the South Coast and forming a club of thirty students with four competitive teams (Tinies, Sub Juniors, Juniors and Intermediates). True to the Club’s slogan, these girls “shone brightly” as they danced their way through State Competitions, a showcase, display, and their inaugural annual concert, where they sparkled on stage to an appreciative audience of over 200! What an achievement for their first seven month season! And the friendships and camaraderie formed already are invaluable gifts that may last a lifetime. Miss Rhonda is living testament to a Diamond adage; “once a cali girl, always a cali girl”.

Yet it is onwards and upwards for Diamond in 2014, with growth planned as well as refinement. Skills and technique will be honed and polished in the ‘experienced’ girls, with plenty of room and hopes for new sparkling faces in all classes. There are plans for a (non-competitive) Tiny Tots class for ages 3 – 5, and the possibility of forming a Senior Team for the over 16’s.

Yet Diamond’s growth and goals are limited by time and (wo)man power. With only one coach and no other known prospects within travelling distance (Elicia at 14 is only just Cadet age), Diamond is limited in its scope and growth potential by the availability of coaching staff. As Lisa works full time three hours away (and doesn’t drive!) classes can only be held on a Saturday, and there is limited time and space. The full component of age groups (some Mums are dying for a Master’s class!), as well as skills classes and solo work cannot yet be offered….

Unless there is a Level one or above coach hiding on the New South Wales South Coast, or someone looking for a lifestyle change who  would like to make the move to the gorgeous Berry coast/ countryside? – it truly is an amazing place, and we have some beautiful families! All cali coaches, or helpers more than welcome!

We look forward to the continuing journey of Diamond Calisthenics as they shine throughout the 2014 season and beyond. You can follow their journey on their website:, facebook: diamondcalisthenics, or contact them via email at


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