Physical fitness, participation in physical activity, fundamental motor skills and body composition are important contributors to the health and the development of a healthy lifestyle among children and youth. The New South Wales Schools Fitness and Physical Activity Survey, 1997, was conducted to fill some of the gaps in our knowledge of these aspects of the lives of young people in New South Wales. The survey was conducted in February and March, 1997 and collected data on a randomly-selected sample of students (n = 5518) in Years 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Measures were taken on body composition (height and weight, waist and hip girths, skinfolds), health-related fitness (aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility), fundamental motor skills (run, vertical jump, catch, overhand throw, forehand strike and kick), self-reported physical activity, time spent in sedentary recreation, and physical education (PE) classes. The methods are described to assist in the development of surveys of other populations and to provoke debate relevant to the development and dissemination of standard approaches to monitoring the fitness, physical activity habits and body composition of Australian children and youth. Finally, we offer comments on some of the strengths and limitations of the methods employed.