Release type: Media Release

Date:

School compliance with the Education Act

Ministers:

Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham
Minister for Education and Training

“In May 2015 my department initiated a formal review into six school authorities affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) following ongoing concerns about their independence, financial management and governance arrangements.

“As a result of this review, on 13 November 2015, my department issued a Notice of proposed decision to each of the six school authorities as required under Commonwealth legislation. These notices detailed the department’s concerns about their independence, financial management and governance arrangements and invited each authority to ‘show cause’ why its approval to receive Federal Government funding should not be revoked.

“After carefully considering the responses received from Malek Fahd Islamic School and the Islamic School of Canberra, my department had to make the difficult decisions to revoke the funding approval for both authorities on 8 February 2016 and 29 February 2016 respectively.

“The decision in relation to the Malek Fahd school was affirmed by the department following an internal review of the original decision on 4 April 2016.

“On 2 March 2016, my department wrote to each of the remaining four school authorities – in Queensland, Western Australian, South Australia and Victoria – to advise that a final decision in relation to their approval to receive Federal funding would be made in mid-April 2016.

“In their responses each of the four authorities genuinely engaged independent support in preparing their response, identified and committed to implementing substantial changes to their operations, including ensuring appropriate independence. These substantial changes included pursuing changes to their constitution and commencing an implementation plan of self-identified improvements and changes stipulated by the Department.

“Unfortunately, the approach of these four schools was in contrast to the initial responses of the school authorities responsible for Malek Fahd Islamic School and the Islamic School of Canberra, who did not acknowledge the issues, did not engage their own independent support, had limited engagement with the Department and did not put forward amendments to their constitution.

“Since 2 March the schools have followed through with real action on their commitments to implement substantial changes to their operations, including ensuring appropriate independence.

“Today, my department has written to three of the school authorities to advise that they will remain approved to receive Federal funding under the Australian Education Act 2013.

“This decision follows improvements to governance and financial management within each school authority, which also delivers financial and operational independence from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. The continuing approval will be subject to additional conditions to ensure these improvements are sustained and built upon – but this does mark a significant day for the students, families and teachers of these schools.

“The three school authorities are those responsible for the Islamic College of Brisbane, Langford Islamic College in Perth and the Islamic College of Melbourne.

“I trust this decision will provide comfort for students, parents and staff at these schools following recent months of uncertainty through no fault of their own.

“The school authority responsible for the Islamic College of South Australia, which has put in place a range of changes to date, has advised the department that implementation of further improvements are imminent. The department will make a final decision in relation to the authority’s compliance in the coming weeks.

“I am committed to ensuring that all school authorities meet the requirements of the Education Act to ensure that our taxpayer dollars and any private investment by parents is being spent to benefit Australian students.
 
“School governance should be of the highest standard and funding should be exclusively used for the education and welfare of students.
 
“Australians rightly expect that every taxpayer dollar committed to school education is genuinely expended on school education.”