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.
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.”