An Australian primary school has unexpectedly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for education in Africa after being called out online by a conservative politician.
Craigburn Primary School in South Australia had decided to hold a gold coin donation day, allowing students and staff to wear casual clothes or a dress in support of the ‘Do It In A Dress’ campaign that supports education for girls in Sierra Leone.
Cory Bernardi – a Senator for South Australia and active campaigner against LGBTQI rights – called out the school online for what he called promoting “gender morphing.”
He also used his Australian Conservatives account to slam the Craigburn fundraiser as “bizarrely timed” and the Senator went on national television to say that encouraging boys to wear dresses to school was “flat out weird.”
The Senators’ comments sparked an online backlash, led by local comedian Josh Thomas.
One of my favourite things about this week is how @corybernardi won't ever say my name!
I am his Voldemort.
— Josh Thomas (@JoshThomas87) September 23, 2017
The controversy also drew the attention of South Australia’s Education Minister, Rick Persse, who expressed his support for Do It In A Dress.
Australia is amid fierce debate over same sex marriage, for which the government is currently holding a postal vote. Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised that if a majority of voters express support for marriage equality, then the Parliament will vote on the issue before Christmas.
A self-professed “committed conservative his entire adult life,” Bernardi is a prominent advocate for the “no” campaign.
While Craigburn had only initially intended to raise AUD900 (US$709), Bernardi’s swipe highlighted the campaign to the Australian public and it has now raised a whopping AUD273,519 (US$215,600).
“The money raised will go towards providing teachers, equipment like books and pencils, making schools safe for children to attend and providing an education so that girls can look forward to a positive future,” wrote Craigburn on its campaign page.
“The main thing of course is to focus on supporting the education of girls in Africa.”
“With you all the way Craigburn PS! What a fabulous result for a committed school,” wrote one donor to Craigburn’s Do It In A Dress campaign.
— One Girl (@onegirlorg) August 17, 2017
According to the United Nations, around two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population are women and girls. Some 60 million girls are not in school worldwide, and One Girl has the ambitious goal of educating one million of them.