Doomsday cult wins federal cash

A doomsday cult led by a self-proclaimed prophet who has been banned by the Vatican has secured $332,000 from the Howard Government to run a private school since 1996.

William “Little Pebble” Kamm has previously predicted a tsunami would devastate Australia’s east cost and believes his Order of St Charbel converts in NSW, Victoria and South Australia will survive the coming apocalypse after he is appointed as the last pope.

But first, the former bank worker who claims he is sent messages by the Virgin Mary is busy building his controversial religious order – which recently secured a $75,000 federal grant for capital works at Saint Joseph’s School in Cambewarra, near Nowra, on the NSW south coast.

Mr Kamm was denounced by the then Archbishop of Melbourne George Pell in 1997, after a report found Mr Kamm asked female devotees to bear his children through “mystical marriages”, claiming he possessed the “Holy Seed” to breed a new race.

NSW Education Minister Andrew Refshauge confirmed yesterday that child protection authorities would be asked to review Saint Joseph’s registration.

However, federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson said he was powerless to review funding for the religious order because the school was accredited by NSW.

The Howard Government had granted the school $332,000 in federal funding and plans to increase the grants from $3527 per student next year, rising by an extra $1107 by 2008.

Federal Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said: “The Howard Government likes to talk about accountability but refuses to take responsibility for which schools it funds.”

Funding for the Order of St Charbel school has raised concern in Catholic circles, amid fears followers are building bunkers in preparation to form a “Papal guard” to protect Little Pebble.

Following inquiries by The Australian, the NSW Board of Studies confirmed yesterday that child protection agencies would be contacted to review the school’s registration following recent changes to the legislation and inspections last year that granted an extension of St Joseph’s licence.

“I want to be assured that all students at the school are being taught in a safe environment. We will be waiting for a report back from the Board of Studies,” Dr Refshauge said.

St Joseph’s School is inside the Order of St Charbel’s fenced compound and currently teaches 31 students from kindergarten to Year 6.

Principal David Williams said yesterday the school would not exist without federal funding. While parents “backed” Little Pebble, Mr Williams said the school operated independently from the Church’s moderator – who has an office in the same compound.

“Our fees are very low – $200 per year,” he said. “We do it very tough here.”

Outside the school yesterday a spokesman said: “This isn’t Waco. We are just people.

“We’ve had abduction attempts from here. We’ve got a lot of loonies around here. There are a lot more loonies out there than there are in here.”

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