Viva La Difference . . . No. 3

7 March 2009

This is another difference noted not only by English people visiting Australia, but also by English people in England (well, those who’ve ever watched Neighbours or Home and Away).  EVERY British visitor I’ve had here has commented on it.

School uniforms.

Australian children wear winter uniforms that are reminiscent of those I wore in the 50’s and 60’s, and are really only seen now in England on children attending very expensive schools.  I have to say I find it rather quaint. 

But it’s the summer uniforms that really catch the eye.  Whatever the fashion in the wider community, schoolchildren here wear VERY short skirts. 

I’ve been visiting Australia since the mid-70’s.  Mini skirts were no longer fashionable and skirts were full length or calf length (maxis).  Except in Australian schools where they were about 5 inches above the knees. 

And they still are. 

They don’t look silly – they are after all on very young legs.  And I’ve got used to them now.  But, boy, are some of them short.  



  1. When I took Amy to get her new school uniform last year there was the argument about how short it could be. What was funny was that exactly the same argument was taking place in the two adjacent change rooms too.

  2. Can you imagine my surprise when I went to my first teaching practicum in a country school and found the norm there was the girls’ skirts at nearly ankle length? Quite logical when I thought about it – it’s a very frost prone area, many kids travel from very early in the morning by bus to get to school and practicality obviously won out over fashion. But what really makes me laugh is seeing the girls from the school I attended 20 years ago in their pink dresses and blue socks. In my day the socks were folded down as low as possible. These days they wear them long – I saw one nearly to the knee the other day – I just don’t get it.

  3. When DD started school her unifirm came down almost to her ankles and it was a size 4! She was tiny. Never, in all her years at school did I alter the length of her uniform; it grew shorter as she grew taller and when it no longer fit she had the longer uniform to match her new height!

    Mum made sure Sister and I wore our uniforms the regulation four inches from the ground when kneeling – in the mid-70s when everyone else was wearing minis I stood out but never once failed a uniform inspection!!

  4. Those girls in the pink dresses and blue socks sit on the hot railway platforms in their short skirts in the summer. I wonder nothing vital gets burnt!

  5. Me again, from the UK with:

    Wot – no trousers? Not many school skirts seen here in the UK in state schools.

    And: that’s another thing I bemoan, the demise of the skirt. Not always practical, sometimes trousers of some type fit the modern life style but I do bemoan the demise of the skirt. Having said that, Marks and Spencer now do a wonderful selection of lovely skirts and many of we older ladies are frequently seen in them.

  6. I’m a bit late with a response to both your Vive La Difference pieces, as I’ve been on a break to Edinburgh.

    The main difference I noticed when I was in Oz was how COMPLIANT everyone seems to be over some things. Crossing the road, for example. Why, when the road is safe to cross (or, as in many of the back of beyond places I went to, completely empty) do we have to stand around like lemons waiting for some pedestrian light to go green? There were several occasions when I gave up the idea of buying something from a shop on the other side of the road to where I was standing because of the number of “waits” – minor roads on my side to get to the main crossing and then minor roads on the other side. A number of Australians I mentioned this to said that we must have a high pedestrian mortality rate in the UK, but I believe it’s lower than in Oz. Perhaps that’s because we’re taught how to cross a road safely!

    And compulsory voting – I’m a huge believer in using one’s vote, but there should always be the option of not voting if one has a protest or just don’t like any of the candidate’s policies.

  7. At Em’s school (Catholic all-girls) they still go around and make the girls kneel on the floor. Skirts should be brushing the floor. If not, you’re sent home until it’s fixed.
    Navy blue straw hats, too.
    Her previous school had allowed trousers in winter, but the waistlines were getter lower, and the legs were getting wider, so they got rid of them, and they all have to wear skirts now.

  8. When I went to school, the skirts had to be touching the floor when you kneeled. The teachers rarely, if ever, inspected and I know some of the girls made their skirts shorter deliberately. Some were QUITE short.

    Some schools have trousers as part of their girls uniform. I think Auburn High (or wasit Auburn Girls’??) has trousers as part of their uniform.

  9. I have a former colleague/now friend that moved to Sydney from Melbourne and he noticted how short the skirts were on the girls here (both school and otherwise) and he was concerned his daughter would do the same and ensured her skirt was long enough.

    I laughed and said I knew many girls (especially from the local private school where the lengths were checked) that just rolled the skirts up at the waist to make them shorter.

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