Bernardi pans school's 'wear a dress day', donations rise
An Adelaide primary school's "wear a dress day" has been labelled as absurd by South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi - but his comments have pushed the fundraiser to national prominence and far above its goal.
Mr Bernardi has hit out at a proposed fundraiser by the Craigburn Primary School that has encouraged staff and students to wear a dress to school on the last day of term.
On his Twitter account he stated: "One school in SA now has 'wear a dress day'. This gender morphing is really getting absurd."
The leader of the Australian Conservatives and a vocal supporter of traditional marriage has questioned the timing of the fundraiser.
South Australia's Education Minister Susan Close defended the decision, saying the student-led fundraiser had nothing to do with the debate about marriage equality.
Mr Bernardi told The Advertiser he did not understand why the tradition of casual dress day has suddenly become "wear a dress to school day".
"In the midst of a debate about the safe school gender ideology program, the redefinition of marriage and attempts to de-genderise society it seems this school is playing into a political cause rather than an educational one," he said.
Mr Bernardi's comments have driven people to pledge money to the fundraiser, with prominent gay ABC comedian Josh Thomas tweeting his support and a link to the fundraising page.
The original goal was $900, but at 11.30pm SA time, it was more than $16,000. Thomas confirmed to The Advertiser he'd donated $2000.
Ms Close said Mr Bernardi's comments were ridiculous and incorrect.
"Craigburn Primary School is raising money to help girls in Africa have access to education," Ms Close said.
"The funds will go towards books and other resources.
"This is a student-led initiative and is completely unrelated to the current marriage equality debate.
"Senator Bernardi should check his facts before incorrectly naming and shaming a school undertaking charity work."
A school blog post promoting the fundraiser was deleted shortly after The Advertiser contacted the Education Department late Wednesday afternoon, but was put back up online later in the evening.
The blog post said for a gold coin donation all the staff and students will be wearing a dress to school.
"Of course, it you don't feel comfortable wearing a dress you can just come in casual clothes," the post said.
"The main thing to focus on is raising as much money as possible."
Craigburn Primary caters for 500 students, mainly from Flagstaff Hill, Aberfoyle Park and Coromandel Valley, in Reception to year 7.