Melbourne school amends uniform policy to allow Sikh students to wear 'patka', turban

Melbourne’s Good News Lutheran College has changed its uniform guidelines to allow its Sikh students to wear a head cove...

It all began four months ago with a campaign started by a handful of Sikh families associated with Good News Lutheran College in Melbourne’s western suburb of Tarneit.

It has culminated with this Christian denominational school accepting and implementing a request made by Sikh families to allow their children to wear a patka (headwear worn usually by young Sikh boys) or a turban as part of the school uniform.

Highlights:

  • Good News Lutheran College, Tarneit amends uniform guidelines to allow Sikh religious headwear
  • Families petitioned to seek amendment, the school acted swiftly
  • Students will be able to wear patka/turban when school reopens for Term 3 after COVID-19 lockdown

...Mother Sharanjeet Kaur explains, “Our son had to go to school with a ponytail and got teased by other children as being a girl. This is where my husband Jasleen Singh and I decided to start a campaign to attract like-minded Sikh families associated with the school.”

Harsanjog’s parents say that ironically, the stumbling block in their way was that there was no rule or guideline in the school prohibiting religious headwear.

"Rather, the lack of it made everyone feel religious headwear wasn’t permitted. Most people told us that a school run according to the Christian faith will not make room for Sikh religious headwear. But the principal, Fiona McAulliffe was very attentive to our needs and took fast action on having the uniform guidelines amended to accommodate this all-important Sikh value,” Ms Kaur says.

School principal Fiona McAullife, considered instrumental in this change, told SBS Punjabi, “through diversity we can express the totality of God’s human creation and be blessed with an assortment of perspectives and gifts.”

“Not long after I arrived at Good News Lutheran College at the start of this year, it was brought to my attention that this was a problem. After some research, I discovered that this had been a problem for a number of years and that our uniform guidelines did not mention headwear. It seemed that there was an ‘understanding’ rather than a direct instruction that the patka was not part of the uniform,” says the school principal.

“I was surprised by this understanding as it is not in line with our Lutheran beliefs around inclusivity. It was discussed at an Executive Leadership meeting with all members in agreement that we should include a statement: ‘Hair accessories or religious/cultural headwear (e.g. turbans, patkas) are allowed in College colours (navy, teal, white and black) with no other decoration’,” Ms McAuliffe adds.

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“I’m feeling very proud now that I can wear my patka. I’ll tell my friends from other cultures that this is the Sikh culture, that all religions are one,” says the 10-year-old Harsanjog.

His mother says she was optimistic about a positive outcome because she has "seen Australia change" during the past 10 years that the family has been living here.

“It was all done in just about four months! It probably took us more time to have people of our own community join forces with us, than have a Lutheran school change its policies,” Ms Kaur adds.

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