5 Nov 2010

Australian government gives millions to Exclusive Brethren cult for inferior education that infringes children's rights

ABC News - Lateline Australia August 19, 2009

Govt increases funding to Brethren 'cult'

By Steve Cannane for Lateline

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd famously labelled the Exclusive Brethren (EB) a "cult" while in Opposition. But it seems that, in Government, he is more generous to the Christian sect.

Figures obtained by The Greens in Senate Estimates reveal that funding to schools run by the controversial Christian sect have increased by 50 per cent under the Rudd Government.

In 2007, EB schools were receiving just over $9 million in funding from the Howard government.

But NSW Greens MP John Kaye says funding for EB schools around Australia has risen to $13.9 million this year.

"[It is] scheduled to go to about 17.2 million by 2012," he said.

"The Rudd Government did not change the Howard Government's formula that had an in-built escalation in it.

"This is funding going to the schools that Kevin Rudd referred to as being operated by a cult."

Education Minister Julia Gillard was unavailable to comment last night, but a statement from her office said recurrent grants funding for EB schools grew by 14 per cent between 2007 and 2008, reflecting increased enrolments at those schools.

It said final 2009 entitlements will not be known until October.

The statement also said the Government has implemented its election commitment to maintain the current funding arrangements for non-government schools and that a Government review of funding arrangements will get underway next year.

No Surprise

Peter Flinn, a former member of the Exclusive Brethren, says he is disturbed by the increase in funding, but not surprised.

He wrote a letter on behalf of 30 ex-members of the EB asking Mr Rudd to establish an inquiry into the brethren.

"They have been the recipients of great generosity from various governments over the years and we're quite concerned about that," he said.

"It's out of all proportion to the number of students. But they are very good at negotiating and lobbying governments."

That lobbying goes back to the days of the Keating and Howard governments.

In the 1990s, two of the main Brethren schools were granted special status known as 'Category 12'.

Michael Bachelard, author of Behind the Exclusive Brethren, says under the old funding model, Category 12 was reserved for Aboriginal schools for children with particular needs.

"Somehow the EB managed to get Category 12 funding for their schools in NSW and SA and to keep it under the new system," he said.

Funding loophole

New schools built by the Brethren are designated as campuses of an already established school.

Under the "funding maintained" principle, set up by the Howard government, these new schools are entitled to the generous funding levels of the schools that already exist.

Mr Flinn says an example within NSW is the main school at Meadowbank in Sydney.

He says they have campuses as far away as Albury, 600 kilometres to the south.

"When the new campuses were established they did not have to go through the whole establishment process under the SES model," he said.

"They were able to retain the ... special position they had been able to obtain under that system and that applied to all other campuses."

An internal Department of Education review of SES funding in 2006 acknowledged that some schools were gaining an advantage in funding by setting up campuses.

The examples highlighted were Brethren schools in NSW.

Revolution benefit

The Brethren's campus system has also allowed them to benefit from the Rudd Government's Building The Education Revolution funding.

The Brisbane campus of the Brethren's Agnew school has been granted $1.65 million to build a library.

To qualify for this level of funding, the school must have between 151 to 300 primary students on site, but the school has only 57 primary students on site.

No-one from the Agnew school was available for comment, but in a written statement the school said: "The central library will, through the use of cutting-edge information and communication technologies, provide all students and teachers across all campuses daily access to services. Materials will be forwarded and returned by either a courier service or post."

One condition of the federal funding for school libraries is that they be open to all members of the local community.

In the written statement to Lateline, a representative from the Agnew school said: "The school has accepted this commitment and the commitment will be met."

While the Agnew school has not acted illegally in tallying up student numbers from across the state, one former Brethren school principal, who did not wish to be identified, told Lateline "it was immoral".

This article was found at:


Behind the Exclusive Brethren (Paperback)

by Michael Bachelard (Author)

Based on more than two years of research, this comprehensive study uncovers the lesser-known facts behind one of history’s most enigmatic and influentialChristian sects.Documenting their emergence onto the Australian political stage in 2004, this investigation shows how theExclusive Brethren made their presence known through enormous contributions to conservative campaigns, assiduously lobbying politicians and maintaining a close relationship with the prime minister—all without casting a vote themselves. Thisexamination delves deeper into the group's past, revealing the Brethren’s 19th-century origins in the United Kingdom, their fractious history, their extraordinary use of scripture to control members and dissidents, and their lucrative business and financial arrangements. Numerous questions are explored, such asWhat exactly was their interest in politics? Why did their activism suddenly blossom almost simultaneously across the world?andHow did a group whose values are detached from those of most Australians infiltrate the highest office in the land?A fascinatingtale of power exercised across several continents, this is also a moving story of damaged lives, broken families, and anger that stretches back decades.

About the Author
Michael Bachelardis a journalist forThe Sunday Ageand a former reporter forThe Australian. He is a recipient of a Jefferson Fellowship in journalism and a Quill award for best news report in print. He is the author ofThe Great Land Grab.

Paperback:288 pages
Publisher:Scribe Publications Pty Ltd. (July 1, 2009)

This article was found at:


Inside the Exclusive Brethren - August 22nd, 2007 - A Current Affair extract.


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