Storm over Australia's real-life Mean Girls

Australia's Mean Girls proved last week they could rival the malice of the US film of that name when female students at an exclusive Catholic college in Queensland were castigated for behaviour worthy of Lindsey Lohan at her worst.

St Patrick's College, Mackay, found itself at the centre of a national media storm after it was revealed that a group of the school's most popular pupils had formed a club called Big 21, which rated and ranked its members by weight, looks and fashion sense.

"Ugly girls need not apply," one outsider complained. A teacher said that group members wrote their position on their wrists.

Some reports suggested that the 15-year-old girls in the club could earn promotion by drinking, using drugs and sleeping around. One newspaper even reported that members were expected to take part in threesomes. That allegation, along with several others that received national coverage, was attributed to an anonymous online messageboard.

The school's principal, Eamon Hannan, moved to provide counselling for pupils affected by the controversy. "They cannot understand why they are on the front page of the newspapers," he said. "To see them upset and distressed at the public airing of their alleged failings is heartbreaking."