A Sikh father has taken legal action against his son's Christian school in Melbourne after staff banned the 5-year-old from wearing his turban to class.
Melton Christian College said that Sidhak Singh Arora had to remove his traditional patka, one of the five articles of faith Sikhs must wear, if he wished to enrol in September as the school's uniform policy prohibits students from wearing any type of religious headwear.
The boy's father, Sagardeep Singh Arora, has accused the school board of discrimination and taken his case to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
"I was very surprised in an advanced country like Australia, they are still not allowing us to wear patka in the school," he said. "If you're enrolling a student from a different community, you should allow them to practice their religious beliefs ... they should not be forced to abandon their faith."
"The police and the army allow Sikhs to wear the turban ... why not in the classroom?" he asked.
The college's principal David Gleeson told the tribunal that he was proud of the "neutrality" of the school's uniform policy. "I think one of the real strengths of the college is that we're blind to ... everyone is blind to religious affiliations."
"[Sidhak Singh Arora] identifying himself as something other than the identity of the college and that creates a difference, that takes away the level playing field for himself and other students in the school," he added.
Gleeson stressed that racial and religious differences between students had "no relevance to the classroom, in the playground, at school events, and that's because differences are invisible."
Former college council member Stephen Liefting said the college, despite being a Christian school, was inclusive towards children of all religions.
"As long as they don't wear clothing that promotes other religions," he said. "We don't want children standing out as different ... we're inclusive in the college."
The hearing continues.