The quality of a Sydney haircut could be set to plummet, if the state government decides to remove qualification requirements for hairdressers, according to hairdresser Cassandra Hooper Whitmore.
The move would bring NSW into line with most other states and territories – South Australia is the only other jurisdiction that requires hairdressers to hold an industry qualification.
Despite this, Ms Hooper Whitmore – a Hair Stylists Australia ambassador – believes deregulating the industry would lower standards and could present a danger to consumers.
“It’s about that on-job experience that you only get when you are working alongside someone who’s done it for a long time,” she said.
“We’re dealing with products that could potentially cause serious damage to the client and to the person using the products if they aren’t trained correctly in how to use them.”
Ms Hooper Whitmore, who co-owns The Cutting Room in Riverstone with her partner, Penny, said such a move makes a mockery of the time and money invested in her training.
“We’ve spent all these years doing our trade, doing our qualifications, learning about the nuances that you don’t get unless you are working with highly qualified seniors,” she said.
“[It will lead to] a loss of respect for the industry from the consumer, who then will start driving the price down because of the ‘chop-shop’ opening down the street.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation said the government was consulting with “key industry stakeholders” to work out whether repealing the Hairdressers Act 2003 helps or hinders the industry, and wished to emphasise that “no position has yet been formed”.
Meanwhile, the discussion paper published by the ministry suggests one of two outcomes – repealing the act or retaining and updating it, describing the latter as “not considered necessary”.
The proposed removal of “redundant red tape” – which includes the requirement for at least a Certificate III in hairdressing, caught the attention of the Australian Worker’s Union, prompting the establishment of Hair Stylists Australia – the first representative body for stylists in the industry.
Most stylists in the industry attained their qualifications at TAFE as part of a four-year apprenticeship, similar to many other trades – though more recently fast-track courses have been offered by private colleges.
Such a course allows students to become qualified in one year, with competencies – including the use of chemicals and client management – often attained in simulated environments.
AWU National Campaign Director Kate Brandreth said hairdressing has traditionally been neglected as a trade by unions.
“We’ve learnt that hairdressers tend to be passionate about their work, but they also face a huge range of issues in the workplace — underpayment, OHS hazards, bullying and exploitation. But these issues are often suffered in silence,” she said.
“The Baird government, by targeting the only female-dominated trade in the state for devaluing, has created a real sense of fury. I’ve never seen a response to a petition like this.”
The AWU was granted an extension until Friday to submit its response, in which it will outline its case for retaining the act.