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Transcript of interview between WA Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr John Byrne and ABC South West's Meghan Woods regarding gender neutral school uniforms

January 13, 2017
John Byrne
Acting WA Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr John Byrne

MW – Dr John Byrne is the Acting WA Commissioner for Equal Opportunity. I spoke to him a little earlier about this issue, and just to let you know the Commissioner has a hearing impairment, so if his voice sounds a little bit different that is why. I started off by asking him if the Commission gets many complaints about girls’ uniforms.

JB – It is not the most common cause of complaints but we do receive such complaints, yes.

MW – Why do you think it is that some parents and students take issue with girls having to wear skirts and dresses as part of the uniform?

JB – Well as a parent myself I think there are concerns about constraints on posture and movement.

MW – So does wearing a skirt or dress adversely affect girls?

JB – Yes, I think it does adversely affect them. They have to be more careful how they walk, how they stand, how they sit, it constrains their movements. So that they get less exercise, chance to move around. This is not just in ordinary sports, it can be during recess breaks, lunch breaks, before and after school. They generally get less exercise.

MW – So do you think allowing girls to wear shorts and pants might allow them to get more exercise, encourage them to engage in more physical activity?

JB -         Yes, most definitely. There is some research that actually shows that. That young women do significantly less physical activity than young men, and that wearing pants actually encourages them to do more.

MW – That is Dr John Byrne, the Acting WA Commissioner for Equal Opportunity talking there about whether or not girls should be allowed the option of wearing shorts and pants at school rather than skirts and dresses.