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A petition with over 10,000 signatures is calling on TAFE to include afro hair education in its hairdressing course. The petition's creator says it's a 'huge opportunity'.

Sharon Masige
  • An online petition has been circulating calling on TAFE to include education on afro and curly hair in the Certificate III Hairdressing course.
  • The petition, which has more than 10,800 signatures, was created by Sydney-based hairdresser and salon owner Chrissy Zemura, who said wants to see people with afro and curly hair types in Australia receive access to fully trained hairdressers.
  • Zemura described the consequences of hairdressers not being able to do afro and curly hair in various industries: "Models are either left with their hair not really done or they bring their own products to shoots and shows."
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

A new online petition calling for TAFE to update its Certificate III in Hairdressing course to better equip hairdressers on doing afro and curly hair has amassed over 10,000 signatures.

The petition was created by Sydney-based hairdresser and salon owner Chrissy Zemura, who wants to see people with afro and curly hair types in Australia receive access to fully trained hairdressers. 'Afro hair' refers to the natural hair texture that many people who are part of the African diaspora have.

There is a system that classifies hair patterns, from straight hair (type 1) to wavy hair (type 2) to curly hair (type 3) and coily hair (type 4).

And within those 'types' is another classification for curly hair, based on the curl's diameter, from 2A to 4C. Check out a visual representation below:

The petition has received more than 10,000 signatures

So far, Zemura's petition has received more than 10,800 signatures and counting. She told Business Insider Australia via Facebook she started the petition after receiving questions on whether she offers education for afro and curly hair services for months.

"I decided to start putting together my on afro hair courses but I realised that the problem is with the curriculum," she said. "All these hairdressers did their apprenticeship [and are] qualified, yet they can not look after afro and curly hair."

She explained that one of the main reasons it's important to update the hairdressing course is because, while some white Australians do have curly hair, Australia is home to First Nations People, Torres Strait Islanders as well as people from the African diaspora, most of whom have afro and curly hair types that hairdressers may not be accustomed to handling correctly.

Zemura's petition is calling for extra subjects including in the Cert III course, including the science of afro hair, styling and cutting of afro hair, product knowledge and scalp care. It's also calling for hairdressers to learn about hair manipulation techniques like braiding and twists, as well as getting knowledge on different tools for afro-textured hair.

With this change, Zemura believes people with these hair types will benefit from gaining access to more afro & curly hair qualified hairdressers.

TAFE NSW argues that it provides training for all hair types

A spokesperson for TAFE NSW told Business Insider Australia via email the state's training course mandates instruction on all natural hair types.

"The national training package currently requires training across all natural hair types including European, Asian, Euro-Asian and African, different textures including coarse, medium and fine; and different hair movements including straight, wavy, natural curl and chemical curl," the spokesperson said.

"TAFE NSW courses are delivered in line with these requirements."

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee handles the national training package, which TAFE NSW along with other registered training organisations abide by when they provide training. This training package is routinely updated and any changes made are done with consultation from industry, while also taking into account any industry's current or future needs.

Some subjects in the The Certificate III in Hairdressing course highlight that to complete them, students have to have "demonstrated knowledge" on natural hair types including European, Asian, Euro-Asian and African, hair texture that is either coarse, medium or fine, and hair that is either straight, wavy, has a natural curl or waves.

Zemura, who has taken the hairdressing course, disagrees with TAFE NSW's stance on providing training across all natural hair types, particularly in terms of afro and curly hair.

"The curriculum at TAFE doesn't teach afro & curly hair," she said. "During my time at TAFE I was not required to perform colouring or cutting services on afro & curly hair clients or mannequin heads.

"I have reached out to a lot of apprentices who are currently at TAFE or just recently finished and they haven't had any education on afro & curly hair."

Zemura also said TAFE needs to "do better".

"I was trained and educated in the system I'm criticising," she said. "I'm happy to meet and discuss how we can move forward and really include afro & curly hair Education, but to say it's being taught – that is simply not true."

A change to this course will benefit hairdressers and small business owners

In the petition, Zemura highlighted that hair salons that don't offer services for afro and curly hair, are "missing out on a huge opportunity".

She also mentioned the Australian film industry which sometimes brings in international hairdressers to accommodate people with afro hair.

"Most of these had afro and curly hair actors/actresses but the production companies brought some of their own hairdressers from overseas who had afro hair training," Zemura said in her petition. "This is a shame, we have a lot of talented hairdressers – let's equip them with extensive education that gives them a wider range of opportunities."

The issue also extends into the fashion industry where models with afro hair sometimes have to fend for themselves when it comes to their hair.

"Models are either left with their hair not really done or they bring their own products to shoots and shows," Zemura added. "Every model deserves to be in the hands of a trained hairdressers."

Zemura believes a change to the TAFE course would be good for hairdressers, small businesses and the economy. Not to mention the people who just want the same opportunity as everyone else to have their hair treated properly at a hair salon.

"[Hairdressers] don’t want to keep turning away clients, they also want to be able to show up at fashion shows, movie sets with the right training and knowledge to take care of any hair texture," Zemura said.

A roaring response from the Black community

There has been a lot of support for this petition from the Black community in Australia.

"The response from the Black community has been overwhelmingly in support of changing the curriculum for this certification," Zemura said, adding that there have been comments on the petition and on her Instagram page with people expressing their "frustration, isolation and embarrassment at being turned away from what the government has determined is an essential service."

Zemura also mentions how Black hairstylists who have trained in Australia find the current course "troubling" as the qualification means "they are qualified to service a subset of the community, excluding people who look like them."

White Australians have also shown their support for the petition. Zemura mentioned that some white Australians with curly hair "feel ostracised from salons because their curly texture is also not represented in this qualification."

"The response has equally been positive with the white community emphasising the urgency that’s needed to make a change," Zemura said. "White stylists feel embarrassed that they have to turn away customers and feel hard done by the system."

Ultimately, Zemura wants the petition to capture the attention of Ministers such as Geoffrey Lee, Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, the board members at TAFE and any other decision makers able to make this change happen for hairdressers around the country.

Zemura wants Australian hairdressers to have the "right training and skills" so they can "perform afro hair services with confidence on anyone that sits in their chair in the salon, fashion show or film set."