After almost 18 months of uncertainty for the school community, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has now affirmed my department’s decision to revoke the approval of Malek Fahd Islamic School Limited to receive Federal Government funding.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal was not satisfied that the school authority is able to satisfy the requirements of the Education Act or be able to do so in the foreseeable future.
The concerns centre on Malek Fahd Islamic School Limited’s independence, financial management and governance arrangements. I note the AAT decision refers “in particular to the ongoing burden of the uncommercial arrangements with AFIC” and that “findings make it clear that, at a minimum, MFISL continues to be operated for profit.”
With this decision, our attention now turns to working with the students and their families, the teachers and the whole school community about how we best support them through this difficult time.
I have contacted Minister Piccoli and my Department have been working with their NSW counterparts for many months about how we minimise the impact this decision may have on the school community.
While this is a difficult time, I remain 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. The Australian Education Act 2013 requires, amongst other obligations, that all school authorities operate not-for-profit, be financially viable, be a ‘fit and proper person’, and ensure that funding provided is used only for school education. All school authorities in Australia are required to meet these requirements in order to receive Australian Government funding.
Australians rightly expect that every taxpayer dollar committed to school education is genuinely expended on school education.
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 Limited my department made the difficult decision to revoke the funding approval for the authority.
Malek Fahd Islamic School Limited requested an internal review of the decision made to revoke funding for the school.
The Internal Reviewer, who was independent of the original decision, considered the new information provided by the authority and based on all the available evidence also came to the decision the authority remained non-compliant with the requirements of the Australian Education Act 2013 (the Act).
On 28 April 2016 the Administrative Appeals Tribunal put on hold the Department of Education and Training’s decision to revoke the approval of Malek Fahd Islamic School Limited to receive Australian Government funding, pending its full hearing on the matter.
In a decision dated 23 December 2016 the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, following hearings and submissions from the parties, affirmed the decision of the Department to revoke funding to Malek Fahd Islamic School Limited.