NSW child protection agencies are investigating a federally funded private school on the state’s south coast that is linked to a doomsday cult.
St Joseph’s School has received $332,000 in federal funding since 1996.
It is built inside the compound of the Order of St Charbel in Cambewarra, near Nowra, and has as its spiritual leader William Kamm, also known as “Little Pebble”.
Mr Kamm and the order were denounced by then Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne George Pell in 1997 after a report found he had asked female devotees to bear his children through mystical marriages.
St Joseph’s, a 31-student primary school, was most recently accredited by the NSW Board of Studies 12 months ago.
This registration means it is eligible to receive federal funding.
But NSW Board of Studies president Warren Stanley today said new concerns about the school meant it would be reinvestigated.
“Our concern … is simply in terms of their capacity to deliver the curriculum, the mandatory curriculum which is a requirement for all schools in NSW,” Professor Stanley told ABC Radio.
“Of course, there are other matters that were looked into during the inspection and since then more recently some issues have been drawn to our attention and the school’s registration is being reviewed.”
A spokeswoman for Prof Stanley confirmed child protection agencies would be involved in that investigation.
St Joseph’s principal David Williams said the school was not formally attached to Mr Kamm or the order.
“We were inspected last year and we were registered for another two years so the Board of Studies are quite satisfied with what we do here,” Mr Williams told AAP.
When asked if he had any concerns about the fresh investigation, he said: “No, not at all. We have a good child protection policy and it’s in place.”
He said parents had chosen to have their children educated at the school and were therefore entitled to their share of government funding.
NSW Education Minister Andrew Refshauge said Mr Kamm played no role in the school’s operation, with the closest link being that his church was located on school property.
“It (the school’s registration) is being reassessed in light of the allegations that have been made in regard to its suitability to continue under the new (child protection) legislation,” Dr Refshauge told reporters.
The investigation’s findings were expected in the next couple of days, he said.
Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson said it was up to the states to ensure a school’s suitability to operate.
“If they (the school’s students) are being inculcated with bizarre views well then I’m sure Dr Refshauge will advise me so,” Dr Nelson told Sydney radio 2GB.
NSW Teachers Federation vice president Angelo Gavrielatos called for greater regulation of the private-school sector.
“The Howard government funds this private school while it ignores the needs of the nearly 70 per cent of Australian students in public schools, who will receive only 26 per cent of federal recurrent funding over the next four years,” she said.
Aug. 3, 2004