Australia’s largest Islamic school defiant despite uncertainty over funding cuts

The future of Australia’s largest Muslim School remains uncertain after $19 million in federal funding was cut off.

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Malek Fahd’s interim board says the school will re-open in term two, following financial management issues.

The last day of the school term is usually a cause for celebration, but for parents at Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney’s west, uncertainty remains.

On April 4, Malek Fahd lost an appeal to have $19 million in federal government funding reinstated, after it was found to have failed to comply with financial transparency measures.

The school has lodged an application with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, but a request for a stay, to allow funding to continue during that process, has been denied.

Rick Mitry is Malek Fahd Islamic School’s lawyer.

“I’m just quite frankly flabbergasted that the government hasn’t given [the school] the opportunity it needs, just a short time more to put the place into shape.”

The representative body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils runs six schools across the country.

Malek Fahd and the Islamic School of Canberra have both had their federal funding permanently cut, after a government audit found they failed to comply with Commonwealth regulations.

Malek Fahd was found to be operating for profit and is now working to prove its independence from AFIC.

Although it’s a private school, Commonwealth funding accounts for more than 60 per cent of Malek Fahd’s funding.

Keysar Trad is the newly appointed treasurer of AFIC and says it has complied with government requests.

“There had been some wrongdoings, AFIC acknowledges the wrongdoings and AFIC did everything from this end to satisfy the Minister for Education. The rest of it is between the school and the Minister for Education.”

If Malek Fahd is forced to close its gates, 2,400 students will have to be absorbed into schools in the local area.

In a written statement today, the school’s interim board said it would re-register Malek Fahd as an existing entity to secure the “best chance” of continued funding.

It said the school will continue to operate next term and “will be working hard during term 2 to address outstanding issues and, ultimately, satisfy the Commonwealth that funding should be restored.”

The Commonwealth Department of Education and Training said it’s working to ensure those impacted by the funding decision receive appropriate support.

On Thursday night, two emergency meetings were called by Sydney’s Malek Fahd Islamic School – one for its interim board, and the other for parents to elect a group that will liaise with the board and address concerns about the school’s future.

This parent told SBS about her concerns.

“I’m just upset about the students and about how they’re feeling. Last night a girl almost had an anxiety attack in front of all the parents upset about what’s happening. The situation with the funding. Because it’s not fair. Why should they pay the price?”