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Cory Bernardi Stirring Controversy About Boys Wearing Dresses Backfired In The Best Way Possible

A school charity's $900 fundraising target to educate girls has raised over $200,000 in less than two days.

On Wednesday, Australian Conservatives senator and marriage equality opponent Cory Bernardi tweeted that a South Australian primary school hosting a "wear a dress" day to raise funds to get girls into school in Africa was a sign that "gender morphing is really getting absurd".

One school in SA now has 'wear a dress day'. This gender morphing is really getting absurd #auspol

The ratio never lies.

Bernardi linked to Craigburn Primary School's blog post on the matter where the school said children could wear a dress or casual clothes on the last day of term 3 for a gold coin donation to raise money to educate girls in Africa. The post linked to the Do It In A Dress website hosted by the One Girl charity organisation with a modest target of $900 in funding for the school.

However thanks to Cory Bernardi's attempt to call out the school for encouraging boys to wear a dress, the school has now raised over $200,000 (at the time of writing) to educate over 635 girls for a year in Africa.

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Comedian Josh Thomas kicked off the campaign by donating $2,000 to the cause.

This is a screenshot of what that link went to. It's students trying to raise money for charity. It has nothing to…

He pointed out that it wasn't exactly a new charity, either.

The #DoItInADress fundraiser isn't 'bizarelly timed!' This is @DHughesy doing it in a dress to help girls access ed…

The CEO of the charity One Girl, Morgan Koegel, told ABC radio's RN Breakfast on Friday that the charity had been running the fundraiser for six years, with well over 100 schools taking part. She said it is up to each school to determine how to run the fundraiser, and not every school encourages boys to wear a dress to school.

"Craigburn really made it their own by deciding their mufti day at the end of semester is a 'do it in a dress' day," she said.

Koegel said she didn't understand Bernardi's concerns.

"I actually couldn't understand it at all when I read it. For me it was just so off-base in terms of what the campaign is all about and what we are trying to say.

"It has been going for six years. It really has nothing to do with the current debate, and we are wholly focused as an organisation on educating girls ... we are not weighing in on Australian political debate."

Koegel said she was focusing on the positives of Bernardi's concern, because in the last 24 hours the charity had had its biggest fundraising day ever.

"I hope that as much as the students feel like they're in the spotlight a bit, that they can be really proud they've been part of inspiring people to make a difference," she said.

Cory Bernardi told Sky News on Wednesday night that the "rainbow mafia" was donating to a worthy cause rather than the "yes" campaign.

"I'm happy about it because the money is going to a good cause. It stops them from donating to the 'yes' campaign."

That claim appeared to backfire, too.

@KirstyWebeck @joshgnosis I've just matched my dress wearing donation with one to the equality campaign, so up yours Cory.

As BuzzFeed News has reported, the "no" side in the postal survey debate has attempted to suggest that if same-sex marriage becomes law in Australia, then boys will be told they can wear a dress at school.

Previously, Little Britain star David Walliams was dragged into the debate because of controversy over a supermarket selling his book The Boy In A Dress.

It seems Bernardi doesn't have a problem with all men wearing dresses.

*With a picture of a man in a dress behind them.

Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Josh Taylor at

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