Malek Fahd – Australia’s largest Muslim school with 2,400 students and 30 staff – faces closure after an internal review found it had failed to justify ongoing funding by the Commonwealth.
The decision follows a Federal Government audit which found governance and financial mismanagement issues at the six schools run by the nation’s peak Muslim body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC).
In a statement yesterday, Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, said that while the review had considered all information provided by AFIC, the body “remained non-compliant” with its requirements under the Australian Education Act 2013.
“After carefully considering the responses received from Malek Fahd Islamic School Limited my department had to make the difficult decision to revoke the funding approval for the authority,” he said.
“Therefore, the Internal Reviewer has affirmed the original decision and Federal funding for Malek Fahd Islamic School Limited will cease from 8 April 2016.”
However, the school has vowed to exercise its right to go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, adding it was prepared to go the High Court if all other bids failed.
“It's not the end of the day by any stretch of the imagination,” AFIC lawyer, Rick Mitry, told AAP on Monday.
The school had money to operate until the end of the year and would not close down any time soon.
Mitry said parents and students should not be concerned.
“The future still looks good.”
In 2012, Malek Fahd Islamic School was ordered to repay $9m in funding that they were allegedly redirecting to a Muslim association – an allegation the school challenged in court.
Another allegation included $2.1m in school funds going missing at Bellfield College, prompting Education Minister Christopher Pyne to order an urgent financial audit of the school.
Other instances involved school funds allegedly being misused at Rissallah College in Lakemba, and property transactions taking place in the name of Al-Noori primary school in Greenacre.
The audit's findings led to increased calls for greater accountability and transparency in school funding.