Schools affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils given 28 days to meet requirements or risk withdrawal of federal funding
Six Islamic schools have been put on notice they could lose federal government funding after they were accused of breaching the Australian Education Act.
The education minister, Simon Birmingham, said breach notices had been issued to the Islamic College of Brisbane, the Islamic College of Melbourne, the Islamic College of South Australia, the Islamic School of Canberra, the Langford Islamic College in Western Australia and Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney.
He said the operators of the schools – all affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils – would have 28 days to respond to the notices and demonstrate their compliance with financial management and governance requirements.
Penalties for non-compliance could include the removal of commonwealth funding, the government said on Friday.
School authorities were required by law to operate in a not-for-profit manner, be a “fit and proper person” and ensure that funding provided was used only for school education, it said.
The former education minister Christopher Pyne announced in June that his department was auditing the schools after media reports that raised concerns “in relation to curriculum, gender segregation, senior staff movements and financial transactions”.
Birmingham said the action had not been taken lightly, but all schools must have effective management and accountability arrangements in place “to support the best possible education outcomes for their students”.
“I am committed to ensuring that all school authorities meet the requirements of the Education Act to ensure that our taxpayer dollar and any private investment by parents is being spent as intended to benefit Australian students,” he said.
“My focus is always that we, as the taxpayer, get maximum bang for our buck to improve education outcomes for Australian children.
“School governance should be of the highest standard and funding should be used for the benefits of students.”
The Islamic College of South Australia issued a statement saying it was restructuring and would comply with all of the government’s requirements.
The acting principal Lynda MacLeod said the college had taken steps, including the removal of the previous board last month, to help it meet its responsibilities.
The school said: “We accept without reservation the requirements set out under the Education Act and are confident that we will satisfy all of the commonwealth’s requirements”.
In a similar statement, Langford Islamic College said it also was confident of meeting the requirements.
My School records show the federal government provided about $5.5m in recurrent funding to the Islamic College of Brisbane in 2013; $3.7m to the Islamic College of Melbourne; $5.6m to the Islamic College of South Australia; $663,000 to the Islamic School of Canberra; and $3m to the Langford Islamic College.
The records also indicate the Malek Fahd Islamic School, which has three campuses, received $17.5m from the commonwealth in the same year.
Comment has been sought from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and each of the schools.
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