Australian school files court challenge against 5-year-old boy to force hair-cut

Tuesday August 11, 2020 Written by Published in Culture
Wendy Taniela gets son Cyrus, 5, ready for school. STEVE POHLNER / COURIER MAIL 20071051 Wendy Taniela gets son Cyrus, 5, ready for school. STEVE POHLNER / COURIER MAIL 20071051

School’s persistent legal attempt to force a small boy’s hair to be cut shows ‘arrogance’, says local Cook Islands leader. 

There is no evidence hair-cutting ceremonies are traditional practice in Cook Islands, according to a Queensland legal appeal.

Australian Christian College, at Moreton near Brisbane, has filed court papers in a renewed bid to force the parents of a 5-year-old Cook Islands boy to cut his hair.

Cyrus Taniela’s parents have been planning a traditional haircutting ceremony for their oldest son’s seventh birthday, and relatives have been saving up to come from Cook Islands, New South Wales, Niue and Samoa.

After the school told Wendy and Jason Taniela they had to cut Cyrus’ long hair, they challenged it to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

KATA: Culture

The tribunal rules that the school’s uncompromising uniform policy breached anti-discrimination laws and ordered the principal relent and say sorry – but headmaster Gary Underwood remains unapologetic.

Even though Cyrus’ older sister had been allowed to keep her hair long, Underwood said the school rules for boys required Cyrus have his hair cut – or be expelled.

Australian Christian College has now appealed the Tribunal’s decision, arguing there is no evidence of hair-cutting ceremonies are a cultural practice.

It also argues that the timing of the hair cutting ceremony is the parents’ choice, so they could choose to get his hair cut before starting school.

The school argues that the Taniela family should have known the school’s uniform policy before enrolling him.

Cook Islands Council of Queensland Inc president Archie Atiau said Cyrus had continued to attend school for the time being, pending a decision on the appeal.

The appeal might not be heard until next year and, until then, Cyrus would continue to go to school with his big sister Jaylia-Anna.

Atiau said the family were okay and did not feel any burden, as they had a lot of community support. They knew the school was going to lodge an appeal.

The appeal showed the arrogance of the school and missed the whole point of the case: the importance of protecting culture.

“It is a no-brainer,” Atiau said. “It is not just about Cyrus, but right across Australia, it is about culture.”

6 comments

  • Comment Link Peow Peow Wednesday, 12 August 2020 20:29 posted by Peow Peow

    I'm sure there's another school down the road that doesn't have such criteria
    At the end of the day, rules are rules, ethnic minorities has this thing of going to another country and try to enforce their customs into that society
    As the saying goes. When In Rome ..........

  • Comment Link Tee Wednesday, 12 August 2020 08:30 posted by Tee

    this bloody scholl and principal is bloody racist, hope you loose this battle, for puttn this family at greif, realy pupils dont go to school goo study, infact any bloofy sch so whay if the boy has long, whags that got too do with there learning arrrghhhh this pisses me off, realy hppe u loose this battle over the poor bous hair. And it is a cultered tradition, hw would hou know, ohhh thats right you dont as your bloody racist

  • Comment Link KAP Wednesday, 12 August 2020 01:11 posted by KAP

    WAS IT STATED IN THE SCHOLL POLICY BEFORE HE WAS ENROLLED IN THE SCHOOL?

  • Comment Link Geraldine Scriven Wednesday, 12 August 2020 00:10 posted by Geraldine Scriven

    It is culture . I have been to three or four of the Hair cutting ceremony with my friends The Cook Islanders and they all have been here in Australia in Brisbane . In the last twenty years that i have known these People it has been there culture . As long as his hair is tied up it should not matter how long it is . When I went to school the boys had long hair . I though the Headmaster was there to TEACH not JUDGE .

  • Comment Link Kathleen Lawrence Tuesday, 11 August 2020 15:58 posted by Kathleen Lawrence

    What arrogance and ignorance on this schools part or any school
    For that matter. Not up to school or whoever to say what is
    in your culture!!!
    The poor little boy starting school
    With this drama happening!
    Do hope all works for the best for all of you.

  • Comment Link Pete Thomas Tuesday, 11 August 2020 13:45 posted by Pete Thomas

    I guess the simple answer is they should return to the Cook Islands then if they don't like what Australia wants people who move to other countries should stop trying to act like they have a right to do as they wish and change other countries, it is not just about YOU

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