School uniforms

Schools can make school uniform rules, sometimes called dress codes, or uniform policies, which outline what students can/cannot wear to school and what the penalty is for breaking the rules. The exact rules that will apply to your situation will depend on whether you go to a privacy school or a public school.

If you are ever unsure what your school’s uniform rules are, you can check the school website, student diary, enrolment pack or ask the student office for a copy of the school uniform rules.

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Public schools

Public schools can make specific rules outlining what students wear a particular uniform or clothes. These rules apply to students during school hours, when travelling to or from school and when doing school activities outside of school hours e.g. an excursion.

In these rules, schools might specify different items of clothing, or appearance which are not allowed under the school uniform rules e.g. makeup, jewellery, piercings, tattoos, or the length, colour or style of hair. This means that a school can require students to wear certain clothing in line with their policy and may reasonably punish students for failing to follow the school uniform rules. However, schools cannot discriminate against students on the basis of uniform rules and should have policies in place for students that come from diverse backgrounds e.g. wearing a religious head covering, or wearing different clothing based on gender identity. All school rules in public schools must follow any relevant Department of Education policies and should also follow anti-discrimination laws, and be applied in a fair way.  Also public schools cannot suspend or expel a student for failing to follow the school uniform rules.

What if I can’t afford the uniform?

If a student can’t afford to purchase the school uniform, the school should have different rules in place e.g. providing cheaper or free second-hand uniforms, or by giving students an exemption until they are able to afford the correct uniform. If a student is unable to purchase a uniform, they should arrange to speak to the principal with their parents to discuss what options are available so that they do not get into trouble e.g. there might be a reimbursement scheme available.

Private schools

The  rules at private schools may be a little different. Private schools can make their own rules about uniforms. When a student enrols at a private school, their parents/guardians will sign an enrolment agreement where they agree that their child will follow school rules, including any relevant school rules about uniforms. Failure to follow these rules may result in schools reasonably punishing the student. In these rules, schools might specify different items of clothing, or appearance which are not allowed under the school uniform rules e.g. makeup, jewellery, piercings, tattoos, or the length, colour or style of hair.

If you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against by your school rules, you can read more about discrimination here.

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