6 June 2023

Application to wind up Brindabella College on grounds of insolvency set for Federal Court

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An application has been made in the Federal Court to wind up Brindabella Christian College. Photo: Region.

Lawyer Hannah Griffiths never intended to take Brindabella Christian College to court. But on 30 June, unless debts are resolved beforehand, she will ask the Federal Court to wind up Brindabella Christian Education Limited (BCEL), the charity that operates the school, on the grounds of insolvency.

She alleges they repeatedly refused to refund $17,000 owed to her.

While the sum is relatively small in commercial terms, Ms Griffiths says it represents multiple attempts over several years to recoup monies owed and is the final step in a long journey characterised by a “complete lack of regard for any usual business practise”.

Brindabella Christian Education Limited (BCEL) board chair Greg Zwajgenberg told Region, “It started as a misunderstanding, it’s been dealt with and the matter’s been withdrawn from court.

“There wasn’t an issue and there isn’t one. The matter’s been settled and it’s been withdrawn from court.”

The matter is currently listed as open on the Federal Court lists. Ms Griffiths says it won’t be withdrawn until she sees the money.

Ms Griffiths says two of her children were enrolled in the school’s Early Learning Centre several years ago. During four months when she was on maternity leave, the family accrued a debt that was eventually cleared by drawing down on their mortgage.

“I openly communicated with Brindabella at all times, but there was no leniency,” Ms Griffiths told Region. Matters worsened when she returned to work and began paying her debts to the school via direct debit.

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Ms Griffiths claims that the school took double payments on multiple occasions, so she revoked the direct debit authority and began paying on statement of account. There were, she says, no financial details on the statements.

“They then asserted I owed them more than $7000, which I found unusual because I’d paid all the statements on receipt. So I got to work on all the invoices from the kids’ enrolment over a four-year period, did a manual reconciliation and had that verified by an accountant.”

That showed the school hadn’t registered two lump sum payments of $10,000 and $2000. She wrote to Brindabella, providing her evidence and requesting reimbursement of $17,000 in overpayments – to no avail.

“I’m now a partner in a law firm and I’m very familiar with processes and evidence,” Ms Griffiths says. “I wrote them a letter of demand, I detailed events and I attached all my accounting. That also got no response.”

After the pandemic and a family move interstate, she tried writing again, to no effect, before taking the school to the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Once more, she says, there was no response, although on 22 March, the Tribunal made a default judgement in her favour, finding the school owed her family $17,487.35. No settlement has been made with her to date.

At the beginning of May, Ms Griffiths served the school with a statutory demand under the Corporations Act. She ensured her legal communications were served in person to the Brindabella business office and on 24 May filed an application with the Federal Court for the company to be wound up on the grounds of insolvency.

The application calls for liquidators to be appointed and for Ms Griffiths’ costs to be paid by the school. At the 30 June hearing, BCEL will need to prove it is solvent.

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While her matter concerns a relatively small amount of money, Ms Griffiths notes that during her children’s time at Brindabella, she paid many thousands in private school fees for their tuition in the Early Learning Centre and primary school.

“This needs a resolution, a vehicle to change their management and if I’m that person then so be it,” she says.

“I am appalled at the way the board is run and the response to a clear error on their part.”

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This school needs to be closed down …

The BCC also took a section of protected public green open space, without permission, and created a dangerous car park that puts local children at incredible risk.

Please sign our petition to help ask the ACT Gov to take action and rectify this: https://epetitions.parliament.act.gov.au/details/e-pet-004-23

Details in a previous riot act article: https://the-riotact.com/decision-looming-for-brindabella-christian-college-car-park/663787

We are still waiting for the response from BCC and ACT Government regarding the controlled activity order.

I wonder if the school will now try to take the parents and federal court staff to court and refer them to the new corruption commission? That would be both ridiculous and on brand for them.

they say the lord works in mysterious ways – just not financial ones according to the college of knowledge

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