Shutdown feared as funds pulled from Adelaide Islamic school

December 18, 2015

Federal and state funding to Adelaide’s troubled Islamic school has been suspended amid an internal dispute over control of the college board.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham and his South Australian counterpart Susan Close yesterday announced a suspension of all funding to the Islamic College of South Australia.

The drastic move could force the school to shut its kinder­garten-to-Year 12 campus in the new year, unless matters can be resolved by January 11. Such a closure would force about 500 students to seek placements in nearby schools.

This comes after an audit by the federal government of the school’s financial management and governance arrangements, part of a federal probe into six schools across the country run by the Sydney-based Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

A spokesman for the federal Education Department said yesterday that no other compliance actions had been taken against the other five AFIC schools: Malek Fahd ­Islamic College (NSW), the Islamic College of Canberra, Langford College (Western Australia), the Islamic College of Brisbane, and the Islamic College of Melbourne.

The Australian understands the suspension of funding for the South Australian school came after a dispute among school board members over a response to the department’s compliance notice, issued on November 13.

Government funding was suspended after it became apparent the response did not have the full support of each board member. The department confirmed this yesterday, saying it had ­“deter­mined that the school board responsible for the Islamic College of South Australia is currently unable­ to function effectively in order to properly respond to the department’s compliance notice”.

Sources told The Australian yesterday that board secretary Faisal Chaudary, who was sacked in October, was reinstated by AFIC nine days later, and has sought to undermine the author­ity of newly appointed chair­woman Miriam Silva.

On December 9, Ms Silva signed a response to the compliance notice. But two days later Mr Chaudary, who is aligned with AFIC, contacted the department advising that the response should be disregarded.

It is understood that AFIC chairman Hafiz Kassem, who sits on the five-person board, met the ­department yesterday.

Mr Chaudary did not comment yesterday.

Ms Silva said yesterday that her “commitment to full compliance with the commonwealth funding requirements has not wavere­d and will not waver”.

“I look forward to meeting the January 11 deadline to ensure that funding to the college is maintained,” she said.

South Australia’s school standards board has asked for more information from the school after a separate investigation into complaints over curriculum and ­student safety policies.

Ms Close said another state-based review had been completed but did not release it yesterday.

Senator Birmingham said there were “serious governance deficiencies” at the school.

It is understood a contingency plan has been made by the South Australian Education Department for the closure of the school. The federal department said it was considering information provided by the other schools.