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SBS Punjabi reported about seven Victorian Sikh families who allege their children have been subjected to discrimination during the Victorian school enrolments.
They say schools which consider turban a ‘non-prescribed item’ in their school uniform policy discriminated against their children by placing uniform on the enrolments. All of these schools are faith based schools.
When contacted for, the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott declined to comment saying it was a matter for the Minister for Education.
“As responsibility for this matter falls within the portfolio responsibilities of the Hon James Merlino MP, Minister for Education, I have forwarded your correspondence for their consideration and appropriate action.”
The Minister for Education James Marlino also declined to comment on the specific cases.
“Victoria is an inclusive and multicultural society. This is reflected in our Victorian Government schools, which have dress codes that treat students equally and protect students against discrimination. It would be inappropriate to comment on the specific case as it is before VCAT,” the Minister told SBS Punjabi adding that the query pertained to a non-government school.
In seeking comments from the minister, SBS Punjabi did inform that six of the seven affected families did not have an ongoing court case related to this matter.
The ministerial responses were received after SBS Punjabi shared the stories of seven Sikh families who were refused school entry because their children wear turbans.
In a specific case, Sagardeep Singh Arora has approached the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for alleged discrimination by Melton Christian College (MCC).
In an interview with SBS Punjabi, the boy's father, Sagardeep Singh Arora alleged that Melton Christian College has discriminated against his son by placing uniform conditions on his enrolment.
Mandeep Singh from the Melbourne suburb of Tarneit mentioned that Good News Lutheran College in Tarneit did not enrol his son due to its ‘strict uniform policies’.
Mandeep Singh told SBS that the Government should provide some clarity to the situation.
“They should enforce it as it is a ‘win-win’ situation for the communities as well as the schools.”
“These schools are heavily funded by both state and federal governments.”
“It’s my government, our government. So why can’t government come forward to help our kids.”
“It’s a secular government and they should promote the secular thoughts from the very beginning at the doorstep of the education, our primary schools.”
“Australia boasts of an established multicultural society. But are we really encouraging it?”
“These so called ‘school rules’ would encourage individual communities to build their own schools. How will kids mix up when it comes to social cohesion.”
“If a Sikh student is denied wearing a turban at such a tender age, how will country accept it later when it comes to avail other opportunities.”
“I would request the wider Australian community to come forward to support the cause. Moreover, it’s not a question of supporting one community but ‘One Australia’.
Alex Bhathal a high profile community-activist and human rights advocate told SBS that the law should be fixed in regards to the exemptions provided to the religious or faith based schools.
There will be a three day VCAT hearing on the first available dates after 16th April, 2017.
Sikhism is a small but growing minority religion in Australia with more than 72,000 Sikhs.
Sikh army reservist, Officer Cadet Satbir Singh Kahlon who has been hailed as the poster boy of diversity in the Australian Army after he was featured in couple of videos showcasing multiculturalism in the organisation.
According to a draft published by the Independent Schools Victoria, nearly a third of Victoria’s schools are non-government, and they are attended by more than 36 per cent of all Victorian students.
“Independent schools support the diversity of Australia by educating nearly 129,000 students in Victoria from across the cultural spectrum.”
The proportion of government funding for individual Independent schools varies greatly.
Independent schools on average receive 42 per cent of their funding from governments and 58 per cent from private sources, mainly from parental contributions through fees.
Sources of Independent sector income, 2014
Are you one of the Sikh families who had to abandon the school of their choice due to your religious beliefs e.g patka or turban. We would like to hear from you. Please contact SBS Radio’s Preetinder Grewal on Preetinder.firstname.lastname@example.org
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