Hair
Hair

Decision on whether litttle boy can keep his bun

TODAY is a good hair day for Queensland preppie Cyrus Taniela.

The five-year-old, with the help of his mum Wendy Taniela, on Friday won a long-running battle against his strict Brisbane Christian school, who were threatening to expel him unless he snipped his traditional long hair.

Today, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled against Australian Christian College Moreton's hard-line uniform policy, finding that forcing the little boy to cut his hair was a breach of anti-discrimination laws.

Cyrus is of Cook Islands and Niuean heritage and his family had planned since his birth to cut his hair when he turned seven.

Wendy Taniela with Cyrus, 5, at their home north of Brisbane.
Wendy Taniela with Cyrus, 5, at their home north of Brisbane.

He had been wearing it in a neat bun to school, but this was still a breach of uniform policy, his family were told.

For months, Cyrus and his mum have been locked in a David and Goliath battle against the school, who have been threatening to unenrol the boy unless he cuts his hair.

His family contacted the Queensland Human Rights Commission after the college refused to compromise on its uniform policy and later took the matter to Queensland tribunal.

QCAT today restrained the school from expelling Cyrus on the basis of his hair and ordered them to provide a private written apology for proposing to unenroll the boy.

Barrister Chris McGrath, for the Taniela family, argued during the tribunal hearing that "Cyrus could not comply with (the) requirement due to his race, as it would require him to reject and not observe a fundamental practice associated with his Cook Islands/Niuean heritage".

The school denied discriminating against the Prep student.

Instead, they argued Cyrus had not complied with the uniform policy "because of a choice made by one or both of his parents as to the timing of the cutting of his hair".

Cyrus is over Cook Islands and Niuean heritage and the plan was for his hair to be cut whne he turns seven.
Cyrus is over Cook Islands and Niuean heritage and the plan was for his hair to be cut whne he turns seven.

During the hearing, one of Cyrus' relatives told the tribunal: "There is a lot of nurturing and bonding when you brush their hair every day, looking after the hair and plaiting it, and telling them stories about the hair-cutting ceremony that they will have when the time comes".

In finding in favour of Cyrus, QCAT Member Samantha Traves said the school had engaged in direct and indirect discrimination against the child.

She said threats to unenroll him were "excluding" him.

"The question then is whether the educational authority would have purported to deny another student the benefits of their education in the same or similar circumstances. The answer seems plain. The educational authority would not have denied those benefits to, or imposed those detriments on, another student who complied with the uniform policy," the judgement read.

"Accordingly, I find that there was direct discrimination on the basis of race."

QCAT further found the uniform policy at the school was not reasonable.

"The school says that requiring Cyrus to comply with the policy is promoting equality and uniformity. That may be so in one sense, but such an approach fails to acknowledge the statutorily entrenched protections afforded by the Anti-Discrimination Act which apply a different concept of equality; namely, one that recognizes the right to be different and to be treated just as favourably notwithstanding that difference," Member Traves said.

The parties have until July 24 to file submissions on costs.

Originally published as Decision on whether litttle boy can keep his bun

Wendy and Cyrus, whose hair has not been cut since birth.
Wendy and Cyrus, whose hair has not been cut since birth.

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