January 21, 2019 06:42:27
Parents have vowed to continue their fight for all schools across Australia to offer pants or shorts as an option for female students.
When school returns in 2019, Queensland will be the latest state to make it mandatory in all state schools, but advocates have hit a stalemate with the private system.
Amanda Mergler from the Girls’ Uniform Agenda said the growing wave of change was the result of two years of persistent campaigning.
“In the beginning it was a really difficult fight — it took quite a while for us to be heard by the people that mattered,” she said.
“We have at least four states that have now put [it] into their education policy, essentially most states have come on board.”
Respective governments have no say on the policy in independent schools, but Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said there should be no barriers for female students who want the option.
“I don’t want anybody to be limited by what they’re wearing to engage in all of the school curriculum and activities,” she said.
Ms Mergler, who is also a mother and psychologist, said many private schools simply would not budge.
“Particularly girls-only schools — talk about empowering girls and that their whole mission is to empower young women to make really positive change and to lead us into a future, and then those same schools refuse to let the girls have the choice of shorts or pants,” Ms Mergler said.
“We think it’s really connected to tradition — a lot of them say, ‘well, we’ve had this uniform for a long time, it’s part of our old girls’ network, people really like it’.”
Independent Schools Queensland spokesman David Robertson said uniform policies were determined by individual schools, in partnership with parents.
“Parents are informed about a school’s uniform requirements on enrolment,” he said.
“Any discussion about updating uniform policies are a matter for individual schools in consultation with their parent communities.”
The Girls’ Uniform Agenda is working with the Anti-Discrimination Commission and encouraging families at resistant schools to speak out.
“The anti-discrimination commissioners across Australia all agree that it is discrimination to force girls to wear shorts and dresses to school,” Ms Mergler said.
“With those schools in particular, we are encouraging families to go to the Anti-Discrimination Commission because families that have in Queensland, that we have supported, have been successful.”
Female students given choice at Victorian school
One private girls’ school in Melbourne has taken the unprecedented step of making shorts or pants compulsory for junior students.
Lowther Hall Anglican Girls Grammar School principal Elisabeth Rhodes said after Year 1, female students were then given the choice.
“They do seem to be increasingly coming across to the pants or short option,” Ms Rhodes said.
“I think they find it gives them freedom to move throughout the day and it’s very comfortable for them.
“A lot of the thinking was that we wanted our girls to be able to have a uniform that was more reflective of contemporary values.”
Gemma Torbet, who is in Year 3, said her wardrobe choice allowed her to be active with her classmates.
“I wear pants to school because I like to play in the playground and it’s really easy and they’re comfortable,” she said.