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Race discrimination found in school’s attempt to unenrol student

Cyrus Taniela’s hair has never been cut. He is a young Cook Islander, Niuean and Samoan boy, and the first-born son in his family. His hair will remain long until he has a traditional hair cutting ceremony, as is the practice in many parts of the Cook Islands and in Niue. Cyrus’ school proposed to unenrol him due to his long hair as it was against the dress code of the school.

Cyrus’ mother Wendy was worried about the impact of the school policies on her child and his ability to get the best education possible.

She was referred to Caxton Legal Centre who agreed to act on behalf of Cyrus in race discrimination proceedings against his school at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). Caxton Legal Centre regularly run race discrimination cases, upholding racial equality and cultural rights.

Through effective and holistic representation by Caxton Legal Centre, QCAT upheld Cyrus’ right to maintain a culturally specific hairstyle at school in the race discrimination proceedings. Cyrus is now free to wear his hair according to his cultural tradition. President of the Cook Islands Council of Queensland, Archie Atiau hopes that this decision of QCAT will set a president across Australia as to how cultural rights of individuals should be considered.

The published decision is available here. 

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