Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham says Family Day Care fraudsters are “on notice” after a New South Wales District Court jury’s verdict late yesterday against Melissa Jade Higgins.

Minister Birmingham said the verdict highlights the Government’s determination to crackdown on people rorting the family day care system. 

Ms Higgins, the sole director of Aussie Giggles Pty Ltd, was found guilty of: 

  • 66 counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, contrary to sections 11.2 and 134.2  of the Criminal Code Cth;
  • 14 counts of using a forged document contrary to section 145.1 of the Criminal Code Cth and;
  • one count of dealing with money/property believed to be proceeds of crime worth $1 million or more, contrary to section 400.3 of the Criminal Code Cth. 

Ms Higgins received child care benefits exceeding AUD $3.6 million, to which she was not entitled. 

“People trying to rort the Family Day Care system are on notice, we will find you, we will take action to shut you down and you will be punished, including the possibility of being gaoled,” Minister Birmingham said.

“The Coalition Government has increased child care compliance checks by 500 per cent in just three years and this laser-like focus is weeding the shonks and rorters out from the high quality providers.

“Some of the examples of rorting we’ve seen are why the Turnbull Government has introduced a range of measures to crack down on child care providers trying to rort taxpayer funds that have already saved $421 million and just in September we outlined another range of measures set to save another $27 million.

“The Turnbull Government’s Jobs for Families child care reforms that are currently before Parliament will further strengthen the compliance measures we’ve already introduced with unprecedented compliance powers to boost our ability to crack down on rorters.    

“The Turnbull Government has increased the number of compliance checks in 2015-16 to 3,100 and is continuing to clean up the mess Labor created when it reduced the number of checks to just 523 in 2012-13.

“States and territories are responsible for regulating quality in child care services but those services need to comply with Australia’s Family Assistance Law and the Turnbull Government’s strengthened child care compliance powers and increased inspections are cracking down on the rorters in the system.

“I would like to thank all agencies involved in the investigation including the AFP, Departments of Human Services and Education and Training.”   

This verdict comes on top of the work with the Australia Federal Police that has seen 15 individuals charged since July 2015 and 75 services suspended or cancelled in the same period.

The AFP Commissioner has separate proceedings pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth), which are ongoing.

The arrest was part of a joint investigation (Operation Agron) involving the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Department of Human Services and Department of Education and Training. The prosecution was conducted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

If you are concerned about any unexplained child care payments or suspicious activities that could be illegal or fraudulent, please contact the Department of Education and Training on 1800 664 231 or tipoffline@education.gov.au.