My daughter Sadie is only 4 years old and can still happily wear whatever she likes to pre-school. Despite this, I know it won’t be long before we might be faced with a difficult decision – the vast majority of schools in my local area of Sydney do not have an adequate school uniform policy for girls, and require girls to wear a dress or skirt at least some of the time. It’s looking increasingly likely that I am going to have to beg to be accepted into an out of area school so that my daughter has proper choice.
It had never really occurred to me that schools wouldn’t have options for girls, and it wasn’t until I started looking a bit closer at local schools for my son that I realised that many schools had yet to join the 21st century. I couldn’t understand it – for me, forcing a girl to wear a dress grates badly against my feminist sensibilities and the framework of equality I aim to raise my family within. It would not be an option for me to send my children to a school that forced my daughter to wear a dress and try to fight from within. This is something I need to see changed now, so my choice of schools is not limited by something like a uniform policy.
It is a shame that it is up to parents to fight for these basic rights in schools – even the NSW Minister for Education acknowledges that this shouldn’t be an issue and that pants and shorts should be offered. Unfortunately, there is still a gaping divide between what the Minister says, and what is actually happening in practice.
We need to see action by those in positions of power to turn those words into reality for all Australian school children, and I will keep fighting for this right so that Sadie, and all other girls in Australia, have the right to choose.