Fighting for Equity in Education

The struggle is long but hope is longer

Call to Change School Uniforms for Girls

Friday April 28, 2017

Girls’ Uniform Agenda are leading a movement across Australia to challenge and change current school uniforms. Many schools across Australia, at both the primary and secondary level, require girls to wear dresses and skirts to school, and turning up in shorts or pants will see girls given detention. As girls wear shorts and pants in every other aspect of their lives in Australia, and boys wear shorts and pants to school, it is direct discrimination to refuse to allow them to wear shorts and pants to school because of their gender.

There are many reasons why girls should be allowed to wear shorts and long pants to school, but one of the most notable is that skirts and dresses restrict how active girls can be. Toward the end of 2016, Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA), a collaboration of physical activity and health researchers from around the nation, released its second Report Card on the Physical Activity of Children and Young People.

The Report Card assigned a grade of D- for both Overall Physical Activity and for Sedentary Behaviours. Schranz and Vincent (2016), from AHKA argue that “the solution to this problem … requires the involvement of parents, schools, communities, local, state/territory and federal governments. We need a culture shift that sees physical activity being prioritised every day”.

Allowing girls to wear shorts and long pants to school every day, and not just on ‘sports days’, would go a large way to increasing their likelihood of doing physical activity. To continue to force girls into skirts and dresses as their only option completely undermines the cultural shift that Schranz and Vincent describe, and sees school actively undermining the physical activity of girls.

Mary Barry, the CEO of Our Watch, the national organisation to prevent violence against women and their children, wrote in The Age on March 28, 2017, that, “continuing to enforce limiting clothing regulations on girls is one of many ways they are reminded of their unequal status. It is seemingly “small” issues like this that, taken together, create a broader landscape of gender inequality across our society. But we can change this – a refreshing new approach to uniforms is just one example of how small changes can have a big impact, helping to break down restrictive stereotypes and enabling all children to be free to discover the world without unnecessary barriers. What better place to start than in schools? And what better time than now?”

Girls’ Uniform Agenda (GUA) is a national group comprised of parents, academics, public health executives and researchers. We are working to create the change we wish to see in girls’ school uniforms by placing pressure on Education Department’s and individual schools to bring uniform policies into line with current state policy and community expectations. Additionally we are working with principals, teachers and related education bodies to make change happen school by school.

GUA also strives to empower girls and parents across the country to request uniform changes in schools where the rights of girls in this area are not being upheld. If you would like to access the resources we have available for parents and students, sign our petition for change in this area, or contact us to request or offer support, please go to our website.

Members of the Girls’ Uniform Agenda Executive include: Dr Amanda Mergler (QLD, co-founder), Ms Simone Cariss (VIC, co-founder), Assoc. Prof. Susan Thomas (NSW), Alison Boston (NSW), Dr Diane Caney (TAS), Ms Krystina Myhre (WA), and Dr Sarah Cohen-Woods (SA).

Amanda Mergler
Senior Lecturer, School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

  1. Uniform for girls needs an over haul to keep up with what girls wear out of school ..pants and shorts should be given the option if child desires.

    Robyn Powell    May 30, 08:46 AM    #
  2. I have been fighting for this change since I was at school in the 70’s. My daughter struggled wearing dresses and tights and a skirt but our school would not change in the 90’s , now finally Kardinia international school in Geelong has allowed the girls to wear pants . My granddaughter can wear pants this year at Kardinia and is .
    Unfortunately the attitude of many mothers and grandparents was , when I said last year ,how archaic it was watching the little ones struggle on the playground equipment,with long skirts and pulling up tights .. the comments I had were “oh but they look so cute in the skirts”.
    Our cold weather is a problem with skirts as well.
    Good on you for starting this movement. Private schools should not be above the law re. discrimination .

    Trish Gant    May 30, 09:05 AM    #
  3. I agree girls should be allowed to wear shorts or pants.
    My daughter didnt like wearing skirts or dresses. She liked wearing shorts and pants.
    In the work place or out of work i wear trousers so yeah allowe the change.
    And it will also STOP boys looking up skirts

    Susan langford    May 30, 10:45 AM    #
  4. I agree…pants and shorts are a must…
    Too many times had boys trying to look up our dresses..
    Too many days that we froze (colder climate in Victoria)
    For the girls that were a little over weight dresses didn’t hide the multitudes (i was one of these)
    Pants or slacks were bought in…yay..but soon after they were off the uniform list..
    My grandaughters are attending the same school as i did and i was talking with them last week on winter uniform and they were saying pants would be a great idea to have at school..because of all the same reasons as me…

    Roseanne Showler    May 30, 03:36 PM    #

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