15 Nov 2010

Australian government gives $70m to Exclusive Brethren cult schools to indoctrinate children

The Australian - January 12, 2010

Brethren schools get $70m in funding

Rick Wallace The Australian

THE Rudd government is handing more than $70 million to schools run by the Exclusive Brethren, a religious sect Kevin Rudd described as an "extremist cult" that breaks up families.

The sect's schools have secured more than $8.4m under the government's school building stimulus package and they will share in $62m in recurrent taxpayer funding.

Documents show a Brethren-run school at Swan Hill in northern Victoria was granted $1.2m for a library and $800,000 for a hall when its most recent annual report shows it had just 16 pupils and already had a library.

Grants data released by the commonwealth shows that Brethren schools in every state received funding under the $12.4 billion schools stimulus package. Despite the Brethren's past disdain for computers, figures show its schools have received more than 300 under the commonwealth computers-in-school initiative.

Brethren schools have also secured grants under the Schools Pride program. All up, the 2400 children in Brethren schools will each receive the equivalent of $26,127 in recurrent funding and $11,200 in stimulus funding.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said these sums were outrageous and the funding system had to be urgently replaced.

"How can the government justify handing tens of millions of dollars to an organisation it believes is a cult while public schools which educate the vast majority of our children are struggling for funds?" Mr Gavrielatos said.

"The government has said it will review schools funding this year. That review needs to be begin as a matter of urgency to allow for a proper public debate on where school funding should be directed and for what purpose."

The Brethren is a fundamentalist Christian sect that lives by the doctrine of separation from mainstream society.

Brethren schools must teach the normal curriculum, although reports say some novels are banned and chapters on sex and reproduction are excised from science textbooks.

Brethren members are taught to shun broader society. They do not use TV, radios and do not watch movies or eat in restaurants. They do not vote, are opposed to unions and other forms of association, except their own church.

The Brethren has been accused by former members, and the Prime Minister in his 2007 comments, of denying those who leave access to their children, a claim the organisation denies.

Doug Burgess, the head of the Brethren's Victorian schools, said its schools were growing rapidly and the funding reflected that.

He defended the sect's right to school funding, saying the children would otherwise be enrolled in state schools at full taxpayers' expense. Mr Burgess did not clarify whether sex education was taught at Brethren schools, but said textbooks were used according to state curriculum.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said independent schools' funding would be reviewed this year but declined to address the conflict between Mr Rudd's comments and the funding of Brethren schools.

The spokeswoman said Brethren schools met criteria for funding and policy allowed for flexibility on teaching sex education.

This article was found at:



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The Australian - January 13, 2010

Exclusive Brethren enjoying $1m taxpayer windfall

by Rick Wallace | The Australian

THE Exclusive Brethren is getting more than $1 million a year in "overpayments" for its NSW schools under the Rudd government's independent schools funding system.

Despite being assessed as wealthy, the Brethren's mushrooming network of schools is being funded at a higher rate than independent schools in battling regional communities such as Bourke and Longreach.

The secretive but financially savvy sect has taken advantage of a "no-disadvantage" clause put in the funding system by the Howard government, of which the Brethren was a strong supporter.

Federal education authorities warned the funding loophole was giving the Brethren a windfall, according to a 2006 report seen by The Australian, but nothing was done about it.

The controversy follows revelations in The Australian yesterday that despite being labelled an "extremist cult" by Kevin Rudd, the commonwealth is giving Brethren schools more than $70m. The generous funding status for the Brethren's NSW schools, which go under the Meadowbank Education Trust banner, was extended by the government until 2012.

The no-disadvantage clause means that despite the wealth of the Brethren schools' communities, their funding level is preserved at that awarded to the original campus at Meadowbank in Sydney. Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said the funding guarantee was costing taxpayers $3.5 billion a year and must be urgently reviewed.

"The over-funding of the Exclusive Brethren's MET school is a prime example of a corrupted funding system, with half the private schools in the country funded above their entitlement," Mr Gavrielatos said.

A statement from the Brethren said "there has never been a special funding arrangement for Brethren schools" and they had always received their proper entitlements.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said Labor rolled over the Howard-era SES model to give schools certainty.

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The Australian - January 13, 2010

In sect we trust

James Jeffrey | Opinion

IN his report yesterday about government funding of Exclusive Brethren schools, our colleague Rick Wallace referred to the Brethren as a sect - though he also quoted Kevin Rudd's description of the great ex-communicators as a "dangerous cult".

That was enough for Brethren spokesman John Anderson who, as part of his reaction to the article, was eager to split that particular hair: "There is nothing about our belief systems that remotely resembles a cult. We are comfortable with the far less pejorative term 'sect'." This is presumably because even sects are comfortable with ostracising former members and keeping them from their children, not just those nasty cults. We'll leave off with some earlier words from leader, elect vessel Bruce Hales, who explained why it's better to stay separate from non-Brethren: "You come in touch with worldly people; if you get a little close to them, you'll have some sense of defilement." We believe the feeling is like an old-fashioned building society: entirely mutual.

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