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Federal Government funding revoked for Malek Fahd Islamic School -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government has revoked its funding to one of Australia's largest Islamic schools and the future of others remains unclear.

The Malek Fahd School in New South Wales will lose $19 million.

A Federal Government review into six school authorities affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has been investigating concerns about their governance and financial management, as Sarah Sedghi reports.

SARAH SEDGHI: Outside the Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney's south-west this morning, parents were weighing up what the funding withdrawal means for their children.

PARENT 1: Obviously disappointed - my son is studying there, so we didn't expect that. I don't know why they didn't comply.

PARENT 2: I have to think maybe I could maybe put them in another school, could be public school.

SARAH SEDGHI: The school is one of six affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

All the schools have been subject to a formal review by the Federal Department of Education and Training.

It came because the Government was concerned about the governance of the schools and how taxpayers’ money was being used.

The Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, spoke to RN Breakfast.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We have very strong standards in place which we expect of all schools in receipt of federal funding.

Those standards require schools to operate on a not-for-profit basis, to dedicate all funding received to the benefit, welfare and educational advancement of the students, to ensure that they are independent in their operations.

And so all of those factors are matters that have been weighed up since the department launched its investigation into six schools that are associated with AFIC last year.

This is the conclusion of one of those investigations in relation to the school in New South Wales, Malek Fahd, and unfortunately it's been found that the processes the school has in place do not meet the high standards that we expect, and therefore this decision has been made.

SARAH SEDGHI: The Minister says the authority running the school hasn't been able to show it's addressed the concerns raised in the review.

Its federal funding ceases on April 8.

Mohammed Berjaoui is the vice president of the Islamic Council ACT, which is part of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

He says the Malek Fahd Islamic School wants to comply with the Government guidelines and he believes the federal money is only being spent on education.

MOHAMMED BERJAOUI: The volunteers who run the school, the people on the school board, they're doing their best to answer the questions which were put to them by the department, the Commonwealth department, and a lot of the questions have been answered but it looks like the Commonwealth is not satisfied with what was put to them.

So we were given time to answer the rest of the questions, which we'll do, as I said, our best to answer them.

We will adhere to every rule and regulation which the department wants us to do.

SARAH SEDGHI: The school has more than 2,400 students.

John Quessy from the Independent Education Union is trying to find out if the school can remain open without the federal money.

JOHN QUESSY: Well it's quite dramatic, recurrent funding is generally the funding that's used to pay wages and salaries, certainly the bulk of it would be.

If that's not forthcoming, then the vast majority of what would cover our members' wages and salaries is not going to be there.

I guess my immediate reaction is that we'll need to seek a meeting with the school to find out will they still be operating, do they have the funds from elsewhere to continue operating, and we'll be questioning of course the ongoing employment of the significant number of members we have at the school.

SARAH SEDGHI: The Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, says the school can appeal the decision.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The school now has the opportunity to seek an internal review within the department, so a further, more senior departmental official can consider the matter and the school of course then has recourse either to the administrative appeals tribunal or ultimately to the courts.

SARAH SEDGHI: But he says he's been speaking with his New South Wales counterpart to ensure all students can be accommodated if the school does have to close down.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Yesterday, in addition to speaking to my Opposition counterpart and ensuring that local MPs were all given the opportunity to access departmental briefings, I did speak with the New South Wales Education Minister Adrian Piccoli.

They have been well informed through each step of these investigations, and well aware of that.

They have been giving consideration to what necessary contingency arrangements may need to be in place and I am certainly confident that if school were to close at some point in the future, those students would be able to be accommodated in other schools.

We've also been in discussions with the other non-government school sectors and representatives in New South Wales, the Independent Schools Council and the Catholic Education Commission to make sure that all bases are covered and all parties are willing to work cooperatively if we do have a situation of school closure.

SARAH SEDGHI: In a statement, the Federal Department of Education and Training says it's continuing its compliance assessment on five other school authorities affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

It advises concerned parents of students at the Malek Fahd Islamic School to contact the school for more information.

ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Sedghi reporting.