Sikhs accuse Vic school of discrimination

Georgie Moore

Parents who say their five-year-old Sikh boy was rejected by a Melbourne Christian school because he wears a turban still want the youngster to attend the college.

Sagardeep Singh Arora and his wife Anureet Arora say Melton Christian College breached the Equal Opportunity Act act by not allowing their son Sidhak to wear a patka, or children's turban.

The family's lawyer Eliza Holt asked for an apology and $10,000 compensation - which would be given to charity - and for Sidhak to be granted enrolment at the school wearing his turban.

"It (the patka) is not something that you take off when you get to school," Ms Holt said during closing submissions to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Wednesday.

"The wearing of a patka is not like the wearing of an accessory."

Melton Christian College insisted its decision was lawful under exceptions to the act.

Lawyer Phoebe Knowles said the college is entitled to set and enforce standards of dress.

She also said the family's desire to attend the school was not enough to warrant the payment of damages.

The school takes children from different faiths if they adhere to the uniform policy, which excludes coverings such as the patka.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission said this was an important test case for exceptions to unlawful discrimination in schools.

Lawyer for the commission Elizabeth Bennett argued the school was essentially saying "we have no problem with Sikhs, we have a problem with people who look like Sikhs".

Mr Arora said he and his wife were relieved that the "daunting" tribunal process was over.

Melton Christian College declined to comment.

VCAT will make and publish its decision at a later date.