Photo: Senator Cory Bernardi's criticism has resulted in far more attention for the fundraiser than expected. (AAP: Sam Mooy)
An outraged tweet from Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi over a primary school's fundraising drive has resulted in it raising more than $140,000 — far exceeding the school's original target of $900.Senator Bernardi took issue with Craigburn Primary School's involvement in the Do It In A Dress campaign, where students at the Adelaide foothills school were encouraged to wear a dress or casual clothes to school and bring a gold coin donation.
In a tweet criticising the fundraiser, he wrote, "This gender morphing is really getting absurd".
The post gained instant backlash, including from Australian comedian Josh Thomas, who donated $2,000 to the charity. It prompted others to donate and the amount raised is skyrocketing.
One school in SA now has 'wear a dress day'. This gender morphing is really getting absurd #auspolhttp://blogs.craigburn.sa.edu.au/blog/2017/09/19/doing-it-in-a-dress-casual-day-fundraiser/ …
"It's about a casual clothes day that supports an organisation that focuses on supporting young female students in Africa and kids can wear casual clothes or just a regular school uniform," he said.He said he welcomed the attention the charity had received.
"If I look at it in the context of the amount of awareness it's raised and the money, I think it's superb," Mr Luke said.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham blasted the comments and said Mr Bernardi should have checked his facts.
Read what some of our readers had to say about Senator Bernardi's reaction to the fundraising event in the comments section.
They're 5X their fundraising goal now. This is the first night in a while I will log of twitter feeling joyous. http://www.doitinadress.com/team/craigburn-primary-school … https://twitter.com/corybernardi/status/910400072604459008 …
But Senator Bernardi defended his stance and said the charity event, which the school entitled Casual Day Fundraiser, was inappropriate and accused the SA Department for Education of social engineering.
"We know that there is this heteronormative rebellion that's going on where anyone that conforms to traditional gender models or doesn't support same-sex marriages is ideologically opposed by our Education Department," he said.
"That's what we've seen with the Safe Schools program. We're seeing it in the marriage debate as well, where our children are being politicised and indoctrinated.
"Encouraging your son to wear a dress to school at the behest of the school, I think, is totally weird."Leah MacLennan @lmaclennan
The Craigburn Primary School fundraiser page has now crashed. The last time I checked they'd raised more than $50,000 @abcnewsAdelaide
South Australian Education Minister Susan Close called on Senator Bernardi to apologise and said he should consider donating to the cause.
"If anyone is politicising it, it's Cory Bernardi and I think it's actually disgraceful to take something that's innocent and student-led and turn it into something that plays out a whole lot of adult concepts that the kids don't need to be involved with," she said.
The Casual Day Fundraiser will be held on the last day of term three.
Charity CEO 'face-palmed' to Bernardi tweetThe Do It In A Dress campaign is a fundraiser for the charity One Girl, which provides scholarships to girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda, and makes schools safer through initiatives such as building toilet facilities.
One Girl CEO Morgan Koegel said it had been an interesting 24 hours.
"When I saw that last night, the tweet, I honestly face-palmed because it was just so far off what the campaign's all about," she said.
"In the schools that we work in, in Sierra Leone and Uganda, a school dress is a really big deal because only one in six girls has the opportunity to go to high school. For a girl to get to wear a school dress, that means she's educated, that she's empowered, that she's had an opportunity and so we use it to represent the same thing here."Ms Koegel said it cost the charity about $300 to educate a woman for a year, so Craigburn Primary School's fundraiser would have a huge impact.
She said her organisation had been in touch with the school since the controversy started.
"What I have been worried about is how the students at Craigburn Primary might be feeling, but honestly I hope if anything they are feeling incredible pride because they've been able to make an enormous difference in the lives of women and girls," Ms Koegel said.
'Harsh thing to make kids feel bad': comedianThomas told ABC Radio Melbourne he sympathised with the students.
"My boyfriend is a bit of a pussy and he was crying because he was so upset that these kids would go to school today feeling like maybe they'd made a mistake," he said.
"This is really a harsh thing Cory's done to make these kids feel bad about trying to raise money."
Thomas said the groundswell of opposition to Senator Bernardi's comment was based on genuine sentiment.
"I've got 442,000 [Twitter followers] but I don't think it is all me. Honestly, I think it's people getting annoyed at Cory Bernardi. It's kind of one of these things where the dislike for this man is tied into this great positive."