SBS Radio App

Download the FREE SBS Radio App for a better listening experience

  • Sidhak Singh Arora and his father Sagardeep Singh Arora. (SBS)
A Melbourne tribunal has started hearings to decide if a school discriminated against a Sikh boy for wearing his patka - the youth version of a turban.
Preetinder Singh Grewal

25 Jul 2017 - 2:13 PM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2018 - 2:47 PM

A Melbourne Sikh family has launched legal action against a Christian college that refused entry to their son because he wears a turban.

Sagardeep Singh Arora told SBS Punjabi that his five year old son, Sidhak, couldn't enrol at Melton Christian College because the school didn't allow the headwear.

Melbourne's Melton Christian College (MCC) has maintained its position on its current uniform policy.

In court today, the college compared the patka to a cap, with the school principal telling the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) he wanted to maintain neutrality between students.

Sagardeep Singh Arora, the father of 5-year old boy claims that the institute's uniform protocol inflicts indirect discrimination against their religious belief.

Australian Sikh student denied school enrolment for wearing turban

A Sikh family from Melbourne has approached the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) after a school allegedly refused to enrol their son because his turban doesn't align with the school's uniform policy.  

In a previous interview with SBS Punjabi, Sagardeep Singh Arora alleged that MCC has breached the state's Equal Opportunity Act by placing uniform conditions on his son’s enrolment. 

"It is disappointing that my son has been forced to abandon his religious practices and identity to access to an education of his choice," Arora tells SBS.

"I believe the historical nature of the uniform standard does not take into account or properly reflect the current school community views in which the school is operating.”

"For a standard to be reasonable it should not permit unjustifiable discrimination."

As to why the family chose to enrol the boy in a Christian school, Arora says, "my son wants to join his friends and cousins who are already studying there. This school is very close to our residence."

"Moreover, it is very hard for me to explain him why he can’t be part of this school."

Sidhak Singh Arora, 5, was due to start prep at Melton Christian College, in Melbourne's north-west, this year. He is currently enrolled in a public school.

International lobbying to stop 'school turban discrimination'
International civil rights and humanitarian organization ‘UNITED SIKHS’ plans to provide legal representation to Sikh families affected due to the ‘school turban discrimination’ in Australia.

UNITED SIKHS is providing legal representation to Singh family with the support of a local law firm the Herbert Smith Freehills.

Mejindarpal Kaur, International Legal Director from UNITED SIKHS has travelled from UK to provide legal assistance to Singh family.

Mrs Kaur told SBS radio’s Punjabi Program that their organization is raising this issue in the interests of all religious minorities.

While talking about the tribunal proceeding, she mentioned that the hearing is scheduled for three days between 24 – 26 July.

“Sidhak’s mother and father told the tribunal that they were disappointed with MCC’s decision of denying their son school enrolment.”

“MCC’s principal and a founder member provided reasons why school won’t change its uniform policy.”

“Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) intervened in the matter in the tribunal.”

“MCC’s previous argument was based on Section 42 of Equal Opportunity Act 2010. It provides an exception based on the standards of dress and behaviour.”

“But VEOHRC found that it can’t be the case as Sidhak is not enrolled as a student at MCC.”

“The second day of hearing is vacated for more submissions and interpretations.  We are told that MCC will fight the case based on exemptions provided to faith schools in Section 39.”

“It’s a very important case. The decision on this matter will set precedent for the other Sikh families who feel discriminated in similar matters.”

Six more Sikh families complain of discrimination in Victorian schools
After Melton resident Sagardeep Singh Arora, six more Victorian Sikh families have alleged that their children have been subject to discrimination during the school enrollments.

MCC’s principal David Gleeson told the tribunal he was proud of the "neutrality" of the uniform, and said the case was similar to a situation where a Year 11 student was not allowed to wear a hat from sportswear brand New Balance.

The college claimed it was not breaching the Equal Opportunity Act as there was an exemption allowing it to enforce reasonable dress standards.

SBS Punjabi will provide a ‘Live’ coverage for the hearing that will continue on Wednesday the 26th July, 2017.

For more news and updates, follow SBS Punjabi on Facebook and Twitter.

Honest taxi driver rewarded for good deed
Taxi driver Atambeer Singh aka ‘Ruby Kalra’ has been showered with praise as he returned a lost bag containing important documents, $6,000 and an iPad.
Turbaned Sikh is a face of diversity in Victoria Police
Senior Constable Taqdir Singh Doel is proud to be a member of Victoria Police. He is one of the poster figures featured in Victoria Police’s celebrations to mark the Cultural Diversity Week 2017.
Sikh history resources made available in Western Australian schools
Australian Sikh history has been included in the Humanities and Social Sciences subjects in WA schools for year 5, 6 and 9.
School turban issue: Victorian Education minister refuses to intervene
Seven Sikh families from Victoria are upset after they were denied entry to schools because their children wear turbans. SBS Punjabi contacted Victorian Minister for Education and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs for their comments on this matter.
Alex Bhathal supports the call to end ‘school turban discrimination’
Alex Bhathal has come forward to support the call raised by Victorian Sikh families seeking an end to ‘school turban discrimination’.
Six more Sikh families complain of discrimination in Victorian schools
After Melton resident Sagardeep Singh Arora, six more Victorian Sikh families have alleged that their children have been subject to discrimination during the school enrollments.
Special exemptions for turbaned Sikhs in the Australian Army
As a debate rages around Australia about religious headwear and whether all Australian schools (state, independent or religious) should allow Sikh children to wear turbans, it is worth remembering that the Australian armed forces have a special exemptions in their dress manual, for members of the Sikh community.
Turbaned Sikh is face of diversity in Australian Army
Army reservist, Officer Cadet Satbir Singh Kahlon has been featured in the new videos showcasing diversity in the Australian Army and the AFL.