mamamia out-loud

Last week, we learned why girls' school uniforms really need to be on the agenda.

John Laws recently demonstrated his commitment to misogynistic and antiquated ideals when he declared that he requires his female employees to wear skirts. Quite rightly, the comment has received a scathing rebuke from women everywhere, who defiantly state that they will not be told by anyone what they MUST wear in the workplace.

Interestingly, Mia Freedman and colleagues on their podcast Mamamia Out Loud, drew the connection between the rights women have at work, and the lack of rights girls have in the schoolyard. Mia noted that it angered her that her daughter was forced to wear a dress to school, with no option of wearing shorts and pants. All commentators asked why no-one appeared concerned with this overt discrimination.

Listen: Mia Freedman, Monique Bowley and Jessie Stephens discuss why our girls are still being forced to wear dresses and skirts to school in 2017 (post continues after audio…)

It is true that in Australia in 2017, some schools offer girls a range of options in their formal uniforms, while a surprisingly large number do not. An analysis I have done of secondary schools in Brisbane found that 67% of public schools, and 100% of private schools did not offer girls the option of shorts and pants.

This means that the majority of high schools in Brisbane REQUIRE girls to wear skirts or dresses, just like John Laws requires his female employees.

What is also true however, is that many women are disturbed by this, and have been fighting their own battles with school administrators for years. In early January, 2017, I published an article in The Conversation asking why do we still make girls wear skirts and dresses to school? The article was read by over 115 000 people, and I was contacted by a range of women across the country who shared their stories of being forced to conform with this requirement.

In 2017, why are we still making girls wear skirts and dresses to school? (Image: iStock)

Most notably I was contacted by Simone Cariss, a mother from Victoria who had started a petition after her daughter had been refused the right to wear pants to school. Based on the overwhelming response to Simone’s petition, which sits at over 19 600 signatures, and the outpouring of support that came from my article, Simone and I co-founded a national group to tackle this issue.


Girls’ Uniform Agenda is an Australia wide group, comprising parents, academics, educators and public health executives. We aim to:

1. Support parents and girls who seek to have uniform policy changes implemented in their schools;
2. Encourage school leaders to recognise that girls should be offered a range of suitable formal and informal uniform options, including shorts and long pants;
3. Work with uniform suppliers to increase the range of girls’ shorts and pants options available; and
4. Campaign for legislative and policy change in this area.

The Girls’ Uniform Agenda website provides a range of resources that parents and students can edit and use as they seek to generate change in their school’s uniform policies. We have detailed the relevant Education Department policies and legislation for each state, and provide advice and direction on arguments that can be put forward to support the rights of girls to dress appropriately at school.

"In the majority of schools in Brisbane, girls are required to wear skirts or dresses, just like John Laws requires his female employees." (Image: iStock)

And we are being successful! Despite being founded in February this year (2017), we have one public school who are implementing shorts and pants for girls from Prep to Year 12 as we speak, one private girls school who are trialling a number of shorts and pants options with their girls, and many of our members have been successful in generating change in their children’s schools.

In addition, we are raising awareness via our Supporters, who include parenting expert Maggie Dent, psychologist Steve Biddulph, author Nikki Gemmell, and AWFL player Karen Paxman, among others.

You can find out more about Girls Uniform Agenda via our Facebook page, Twitter, and the Girls Uniform Agenda website. Be sure to sign our petition and add your voice to the almost 20,000 others who believe that attitudes like those expressed by John Law have no place in the workplace, or the schoolyard.

Listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud here.

Should girls have choices when it comes to their school uniform?