Financial mismanagement, governance failures and curriculum irregularities threaten the closure of six Australian Islamic schools
Feb 9, 2016 | News
The Government has cut $19 million in federal funding to Australia’s largest Islamic school, leaving more than 2400 students uncertain about their future education.
The Department for Education has revoked approval for the Malek Fahd School based in Greenacre, Sydney following a nine-month investigation into claims of financial mismanagement, governance failures and political infighting.
Five other schools around the country are also at risk, having been served non-compliance notices in November last year. They are the Islamic College of Brisbane, the Islamic College of Melbourne, the Islamic College of South Australia, the Islamic School of Canberra and Langford Islamic College in WA.
The federal Department of Education says it issued a notice revoking the Sydney school’s approval on Monday due to non-compliance with the Australian Education Act.
The private school received $17.5 million in taxpayer funding in 2013 - around 75 per cent of its income.
Stressing that the decision was made on governance rather than religious grounds, Education Minister Simon Birmingham said: “Last year the department issued a formal compliance notice when it found that the school authority was not complying with fundamental governance, financial and accountability requirements of the Australian Education Act 2013.
“Unfortunately, the authority that operates Malek Fahd Islamic School was not able to demonstrate to my department that they had addressed the significant concerns about their financial management and governance arrangements raised during the formal compliance review of their operations.
“After carefully considering the response to the issues raised in the compliance notice, my department had to make the difficult decision to revoke the funding approval.
“The act requires, amongst other obligations, that all school authorities operate not-for-profit, be a ‘fit and proper person’ and ensure that funding provided is used only for school education.”
The government investigation was launched last June following a string of sackings among senior staff members at Malek Fahd and amid allegations of financial mismanagement and curriculum delivery issues at all six of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils schools.
The Greenacre school is currently fighting a separate legal battle with the NSW Department of Education over state funding following Minister Adrian Piccoli’s claim last October that it had been operating for profit.
In a cross claim, the school board has accused the state government of breaching racial discrimination laws in ordering it to repay $8.5 million in taxpayer funding.
Senator Birmingham said he had been working with Mr Piccoli to ensure that no students would be left without schooling should the school be forced to close.
Malek Fahd currently caters for 2444 students from Kindergarten to Year 12 across three campuses.
The funding revocation takes effect on 8 April.