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School uniforms

Northern Territory

 If you are under 25 and you are unsure about your rights or responsibilities or what to do next, you can get free, confidential legal advice at Lawmail.


Can my school make me wear a uniform?

Public schools

Yes, your school can make you wear a particular uniform and clothes if that’s what you school rules say.  In the Northern Territory, you have to wear a uniform between transition and Year 9 when you’re at school and attending school activities (whether during school or after school hours).    You also have to wear a uniform if your senior school decides this.     

Your school probably also has a specific uniform policy (sometimes called a dress code) which clearly explains what you can wear and what happens if you don’t follow the rules. You can ask for a copy of your dress code policy and guidelines from your school’s handbook.  You can also check your school website. Your school must be able to give you a copy of the rules if you ask for them.

You can’t be excluded from school, for example suspended or expelled, for not wearing the right uniform. Your school uniform policy must also include a plan to incorporate feedback from the school community about updating the policy.     

What can I do if my parents can’t afford the uniform?

Public schools

Your school uniform policy has to explain how it will help families who are suffering financial hardship. If your family receives the Back To School payment, they can use this to get a rebate for the cost of uniforms. Currently, parents or guardians of students from preschool to Year 12 can get $150 worth of educational items (including uniforms) in Term 1 of each school year. If you want more information about the scheme, you should talk to your school office.

You can also check to see if your school has any second-hand clothes that are available. Finally, you and your parents may want to meet with the principal to discuss a solution that takes into account the financial restrictions on your family. This may include giving you an exception to the uniform requirements or giving you more time to buy clothes.

Can my school stop me wearing items of religious or cultural importance?

Public schools

Some students may wish to wear things for a religious or cultural reasons, like head coverings, jewellery or a tattoo.  Public schools in the Northern Territory should make sure that their dress codes can address cultural and religious differences.

Your school is not allowed to unreasonably enforce a uniform policy if it discriminates against you based on your religion, ethnicity or cultural background. If you’re having trouble with your school about wearing something of religious or cultural importance, it’s a good idea to talk to the teacher or principal involved. You can also ask a parent to come with you to the meeting.

If that doesn’t work, you may want to make a complaint to the Department of Education. If still that doesn’t work, there are other options, like a complaint to the Ombudsman or the Australian Human Rights Commission or the NT Anti-Discrimination Commission. If you want more information about how to make a complaint, please send us a Lawmail.

If you have a question that we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail!

This page was last updated on 10 March 2015.



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