“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.
“Central to these concerns is that the six authorities (separate from AFIC) are individually approved by the relevant State, Territory and Australian Government regulators to operate a school and to receive taxpayer funding. It is a fundamental expectation that these authorities operate independently of AFIC and have full control over their governance and finances. An entity that is not approved to deliver school education and that is not subject to the Commonwealth regulatory regime should not be controlling Commonwealth school funding.
“After carefully considering the responses received from the authorities for Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney and Islamic School of Canberra, my department determined to revoke the funding approval for both authorities.
“The department has today written to each of the remaining four school authorities to advise that a final decision in relation to their approval to receive Federal funding will be made on 11 April 2016. The four authorities are responsible for the Islamic College of South Australia, the Islamic College of Brisbane, Islamic College of Melbourne and the Langford Islamic College in Perth.
“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, this was in contrast to the 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.
“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.
“The department recognises that some changes proposed by each authority require some time to be implemented. Each authority will need to demonstrate its full compliance with the Australian Education Act – including independence of its operations – before 11 April 2016 or risk revocation of Federal funding. The authorities will be required to regularly update the Department of their progress through to 11 April and ensure full implementation of the undertakings they have made.
“Australians rightly expect that every taxpayer dollar committed to school education is genuinely expended on school education. These authorities have promised to change and they will be held to their promises. The Government has shown a willingness to withdraw funding where independent governance and financial accountability cannot be assured and will do so again if needs be.”