Understanding gender perspectives among elite private boys’ school alumni: 1970-present

The challenge

Sexism, gendered violence and their impacts on girls and women dominated the national conversation in Australia in 2021, highlighted by several key moments. In January, child sex abuse survivor Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year. This was soon followed by former liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins’ allegation about a rape in parliament house, and a further historical rape allegation concerning the Attorney General Christian Porter. These critical events re-invigorated widespread public concern about the treatment of women and girls in Australia, including in the highest offices of the land.

In the wake of these events, Chanel Contos, a former student of an elite private girls’ school in Sydney commenced a petition on social media for consent education to be taught earlier. The petition attracted many testimonies from young women across the country regarding sexual assault from young men, many of whom attended elite private boys’ schools. A spotlight has been placed on elite private boys’ education and the male leaders they become. All but two of Australia’s post war Prime Ministers (Bob Hawke and Julia Gillard) attended boys’ only schools, highlighting that many of the men who attend boys’ only schools will come to occupy positions of significant privilege and power.

It is time to place further scrutiny on elite boys’ schools and the men they have produced over time.

Grade 5 Essendon Grammar 1972

Project overview

This project is investigating the perspectives of men who attended elite boys’ schools including how they developed ideas about gender both within their schools and in their lives more broadly.

Its purpose is to add to our stock of knowledge about the gendered cultures of such schools both historically, and more recently by recruiting men of various ages to be interviewed.

The project aims to find out more about how such men across the generations understand gender issues, how they construct their responsibility when it comes to working toward gender equality, and how school cultures and experiences beyond schooling may have mediated these issues.

Project team

Dr Claire Charles (Deakin University)

Dr George Variyan (Monash University)

Associate Professor Lucinda McKnight (Deakin University)







social justice, gender, curriculum, masculinity