Celebrating 60 years

ACHPER (originally the Australian Physical Education Association) came into being when state physical education branches, national fitness council branches, and university and teachers’ college staff were looking for a sense of professional cohesion and common ground to further their cause.

2015 was of particular significance, as it marked 60 years of the organisation operating as a National association.

A timeline of ACHPER’s history featuring momentous occasions and projects of national significance have been compiled by ACHPER Life Member and Former National President Alf Colvin and ACHPER Fellow and Former National Executive Director Jeff Emmel.




At the first formal meeting of the Federal Council of the Australian Physical Education Association (APEA), held in Melbourne on November 6th and 7th 1954, representatives of State Physical Education Associations unanimously agreed to form a National organisation. 1955 was the first year the APEA operated as a National organisation.

Ownership of the ‘Physical Education Journal’ was transferred from the Victorian Physical Education Association to the APEA, and became the official organ of the newly formed National association.

1956 The first National Conference, held in Melbourne in 1956, reflected this change to a National organisation. Biennial National Conferences have since played an important role in developing and moulding policies and the strategies for their implementation nationally.

APEA created the Fitness Leaders program in 1966 to upgrade and establish professional development for the fitness industry.

The first ACHPER Life Membership, a prestigious award recognising the service given by individuals to their Branch and to the National association over many years, was first awarded in 1966. This was followed by the introduction of the Fellow award in 1981.

1968 The inaugural Fritz Duras Memorial Lecture orated by Dr Phillip Law was held on January 18 at the University of Melbourne, as part of the seventh biennial Conference of the APEA. This Lecture honoured Fritz Duras’s outstanding achievements and contribution to the field. A number of eminent Australians have had the honour of presenting the Lecture since, held every two years at the time of the ACHPER National Conference.

The Council of the APEA, after some years of consideration, reversed an earlier decision and resolved that the association should be known going forward as the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER).

The establishment of Special Interest Groups were formed which diversified ACHPER’s membership. In particular, ACHPER-SISEMC (the special interest section within ACHPER that is concerned for exceptional members of the community), was developed strongly and made an impact – both nationally and internationally – through its publication ‘Discover’.


ACHPER successfully negotiated with a number of Australian publishers to act as a retail outlet for books in its professional areas of interest. The 'Healthy Lifestyles Bookshop’ flourished in the 80s-90s, and was a major source of income for the National association over many years.

1976 ACHPER launched a national project to identify the present and future requirements for Physical Education in Australia, which was funded by the Curriculum Development Centre in Canberra. Three search conferences were held in QLD, SA and WA to provide ACHPER with an opportunity to become familiar with the attitudes and values of people in the profession.
1979 Following the successful ACHPER National Conference ‘Values Into Action’, National Coordinators in the areas of health education, physical education, recreation, sport and dance were appointed to give particular focus to the work of ACHPER in these areas. This was followed by each State Branch making corresponding appointments, which created a network of coordinators to react to the wide range of concerns and issues facing the profession.

In 1980, ACHPER welcomed the formation of a new Branch in the Australian Capital Territory, bringing the total number of Branches to eight.

The appointment of the first full-time National Executive Director was consolidated in 1980 to advance ACHPER’s various professional interests.

1982 ACHPER was appointed publisher and national distributor of the ‘Daily Physical Education Program’ which made a significant and lasting contribution to the development of daily physical education in Australian schools. The launch of the ‘Daily Physical Education Program’, on 24 October 1982 in Brisbane during the National Conference, was the culmination of a major curriculum writing project initiated within the Physical Education Branch of the South Australian Education Department. This heralded a new life for ACHPER and launched ACHPER into a new direction of truly national dimension.​

An alliance between the National Heart Foundation of Australia and ACHPER commenced in 1983 with the introduction of the Jump Rope for Heart program to Australian schools. ACHPER made a significant contribution to the on-going development and promotion of the program, which promoted regular physical activity through skipping and raised funds to research and promote cardiovascular health.

1985 ACHPER was involved in a joint initiative with the Australian Sports Commission and National Sporting Organisations to develop the Coaching arm of the AUSSIE SPORTS program. This educational program assisted teachers, coaches and parents to adequately teach particular sports, which led to a diversified and improved quality of youth sports participation.
1986 The first results of the National Health and Fitness Survey of Australian schoolchildren were announced by the Hon. John Brown, Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism in Canberra on 11 March. ACHPER was involved in updating and revising the 1971 Australian Youth Fitness Survey through funding from the Menzies Foundation, which resulted in a national set of measurements (norms) that allowed physical educators, sport, fitness and health professionals to monitor and evaluate their contribution. The survey results were used to establish the National Fitness Award in 1988, which provided a valuable incentive for students, classes and schools to improve their levels of fitness.

ACHPER becomes involved in a project of national significance – Recreation in Nursing Homes – which was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism. The ‘Recreation in Nursing Home Project’ improved the quality of life for residents in nursing homes and residential care centres by providing nursing home staff with relevant information and programs of professional development.

The Health Education and Lifestyle Project (HELP), a national initiative of ACHPER in association with the Commonwealth Department of Health, recognised the critical role that school Health Education played in promoting responsible and lasting ways of achieving good health. No greater national program of this significance to school health education in Australia had ever been contemplated at the time.

ACHPER contributed strongly to the establishment of accredited training and safety standards in the fitness industry through publishing of the ‘Standards and Guidelines for the Operation of Fitness Centres’.

1989 ACHPER acquired real estate, resulting in a clearly identified national headquarters which were able to house the various growing functional units.

National Coordinators from each of the seven areas of focus were added to the Board structure, which allowed for immediate feedback as to the impact of decisions on the specific professional areas within the membership.

ACHPER contributed to the development and review of the Sport Start publication about developing children’s skills at home.

1992 ACHPER was part of the writing group for the teacher resource manual Sport it!, developed by the Australian Sports Commission as part of Aussie Sport.

ACHPER was involved in providing evidence and advocating for the Senate Inquiry, Sport and Physical Education.

ACHPER contributed to the National Statement and Profile for Health and Physical Education as part of the development of the Health and Physical Education learning area for the first time. It was ACHPER’s aim that all of its areas of focus were appropriately addressed in the national curriculum documents.


The Active & Healthy Magazine was launched in 1994 to complement the Journal and focus upon the practical requirements of those dealing with clients in schools, fitness centres and the community at large.

An ACHPER National Honour Board and Archival Display Case was officially opened at the National office on 8th of April. The Honour Board featured photographs of National Presidents and names of Life Members.​

A valuable venture in publication was the Physical Education Primary (PEP) series. PEP Fitness, the first in a series of resources for primary teachers and their students, was released in 1994, with subsequent titles in the series released in the following years.

1998 The Schools Network (formerly the Active Australia Schools Network) was an initiative funded by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and nationally managed by ACHPER. The Schools Network had a primary role to support ASC goals, particularly with respect to junior sport. 1998 marked the first year of a ten year successful collaboration, which saw the ASC invest $4.3 million in the Schools Network over that time.
2002 To help parents and teachers increase children’s levels of physical activity and to improve their health and fitness, ACHPER partnered with Kellogg and the National Heart Foundation of Australia to develop one of the first set of Australian recommendations that linked nutrition and physical activity for children through the ‘5 ways to Health and Fitness’ concept. This partnership lasted for five years.

ACHPER continued to represent the membership on Australian Government Advisory Committees such as the National Obesity Task Force Consultative Committee, and the Junior Sport Framework Steering Committee. ACHPER also contributed to the development of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing’s health-related physical activity guidelines for children and youth.

ACHPER was commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training under the National School Drug Education Strategy to redevelop the alcohol education package ‘Rethinking Drinking’ for aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

2006 From 2006-12, ACHPER worked with National Sporting Organisations including Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia and the AFL to develop curriculum resources.

The first edition of the Game Sense resource Play with Purpose was published by ACHPER. This has led to several editions and spin-off versions (AFL & Netball) since this time, which continue to be well received by the teaching and coaching community and remain a focus of ACHPER National’s publishing direction.

2008 ACHPER was contracted by the Supreme Education Council to improve the quality and status of teaching and learning in Physical Education in Independent Schools in Qatar. From May through to December, a team of seven consultants developed Physical Education Curriculum Standards along with a range of curriculum documentation of the Physical Education Curriculum Framework. From September to December, the team visited all 85 Independent Schools, and held a series of professional development workshops for teachers.

With support of the Branches, ACHPER moved to a new governance structure in 2010. The National Board was modernised and streamlined to improve its operational ability and decision-making processes.

ACHPER entered into an ongoing consultancy relationship with the Australian Sports Commission in relation to providing advice on the curriculum and assisting National Sporting Organisations to develop curriculum compatible resources.


ACHPER played a strong role in the scoping and development of the Australian Curriculum for Health and Physical Education, working closely with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) from 2011 onwards.

ACHPER was involved in a project with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) to develop annotated illustrations and provide online exemplars to assist HPE teachers to interpret the National Teaching Standards.

Modernisation of ACHPER’s operations occurred during 2011, with the relaunch of the National website and introduction of online member registration.


2012 was the first year of an agreement with reputable worldwide publisher Taylor and Francis to publish ACHPER’s Journal, the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education. This strengthened the Journal’s profile and penetration, and also saw a change in delivery to an online format.

The inaugural National Health & Physical Education Day was held in 2012 to celebrate the importance of HPE to the lives of children.


After considerable review and research, ACHPER sold its National premises which increased ACHPER’s capacity to invest in the business side of the organisation.

Prior to the 28th International Conference in Melbourne, a pre-conference forum with over 100 invited delegates was held to interrogate four ‘intentions for action’ proposed by the National Board to support the Australian Curriculum. This has provided a clear direction to the future work of the organisation.

2015 Marks 60 years of ACHPER operating as a National organisation.

What do you think has been the most significant milestone in the association’s history? Have an ACHPER milestone which you believe should be included? Contact us here.

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