Physical Culture & Australian Women

Olivia wins the 12 year section at Junior Nationals and is overcome with emotion as she takes her place on the podium.

 

Photographer Lyndal Irons is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. These images are from her project ‘Physie‘. To see Lyndal’s body of work click on any image.

 

Semi-finalists march out to reveal who moves on to the next round at the qualifying heats of the 1st year Seniors, while the judges look on. State Sports Centre, Olympic Park, NSW, Australia.

Semi-finalists march out to reveal who moves on to the next round at the qualifying heats of the 1st year Seniors, while the judges look on. State Sports Centre, Olympic Park, NSW, Australia.

 

Girls dress up for the big finale competition at the Sydney Opera House, Australia

Girls dress up for the big finale competition at the Sydney Opera House, Australia

 

Women can practice Physie from age two (or whenever they are comfortable leaving their mother for half an hour) and the curriculum adapts to each stage of life. Berowra, NSW, Australia.

Women can practice Physie from age two (or whenever they are comfortable leaving their mother for half an hour) and the curriculum adapts to each stage of life. Berowra, NSW, Australia.

 

It was before I went to school. There is a photo of my sister and I wearing matching polka dot leotards and leg warmers. I remember marching in a rectangle and being careful at the corners. But I don’t remember why.

This series is partly about filling in the holes. It also aims to shed light on one of Australia’s oldest sporting institutions.

The Bjelke-Petersen School of Physical Culture was founded in 1892 by Hans Christian Bjelke-Petersen. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, former Premier of Queensland, was his nephew but he never had any association with the company. It started as a medical gymnasium in Tasmania concerned with correcting health and posture in men and children. In the early 1920s BJP moved into the school system.

During World War II most male teachers were lost.

Today “Physie” is the domain of Australian females of all ages and has modernized to include elements of dance. Competition is fierce and performers train intensely in an attempt to reach the pinnacle of perfection. They gather pace in Australia’s towns and suburbs and build toward an annual sell out finale at the Sydney Opera House.

 

Girls rehearse and mentally prepare backstage for the 2nd year senior section of the Senior National Finals at the Opera House

Girls rehearse and mentally prepare backstage for the 2nd year senior section of the Senior National Finals at the Opera House

 

Rehearsals for the big finale competition at the Sydney Opera House, Australia.

Rehearsals for the big finale competition at the Sydney Opera House, Australia.

 

Recreation back stage waiting between performances, Homebush, NSW, Australia.

Recreation back stage waiting between performances, Homebush, NSW, Australia.

 

7-8 year teams marshal backstage for the Championship teams event. In this instance, three teachers are supervising just eight girls to keep them focused and motivated.

7-8 year teams marshal backstage for the Championship teams event. In this instance, three teachers are supervising just eight girls to keep them focused and motivated.

 

Thousands of women do it but Physical Culture remains difficult to define.

It is a bit like a military drill. A bit like dance. A bit like gymnastics. A bit like synchronized swimming without water.

 

A performer prepares to compete for Champion Girl, backstage at the Sydney Opera House, Australia.

A performer prepares to compete for Champion Girl, backstage at the Sydney Opera House, Australia.

 

The grooming routine for 15-16 year old teams where all 8 girls are made up simultaneously and the lipstick always goes on at the last possible moment. Homebush, NSW, Australia

The grooming routine for 15-16 year old teams where all 8 girls are made up simultaneously and the lipstick always goes on at the last possible moment. Homebush, NSW, Australia

 

A mother prepares her daughter for competition.

A mother prepares her daughter for competition.

 

See also:

Goodbye Oxford Tavern

By Lyndal Irons

 


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