The decision by the United Nations to make the fictional character Wonder Woman an honorary ambassador for empowerment of women and girls has not impressed Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

"I think there are plenty of real-life role models that they could have chosen," she said today during a brief visit to Auckland.

"[There are] plenty of female global leaders that I think inspire others to achieve great things."

A ceremony at the UN today to formalise the appointment was met with a protest by UN staff who have petitioned Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to reconsider.


Many inside turned their backs on events and held fist in the air.

The appointment was part of a plan to support No 5 of the UN's sustainable development goals: "to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls," a set of goals to be achieved by 2030.

The appointment also marked the 75th anniversary of the creation of Wonder Woman as a cartoon character who championed equality and justice.

She was brought to life in a television series in the 1970s starring former beauty queen Lynda Carter, who attended today's ceremony at the UN.

The staff petition however takes issue with the character: "Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent 'warrior' woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character's current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots -the epitome of a 'pin-up' girl....

And in an apparent reference to presidential candidate Donald Trump, the petition says: "It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualised image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls."

The rights to the character are held by DC Comics.

The Guardian reported that Cristina Gallach, UN under secretary general for communications and public information, attended the event on behalf of Ban and explained the choice of Wonder Woman in her speech.

"I don't need to tell you Wonder Woman is an icon.

"She has been known for justice, peace and equality and we are very pleased that this character will help us reach new audiences with essential messages about empowerment and equality."