14 May 2024

Two new fights launched against Brindabella Christian College for unpaid super, alleged DA breaches

| Claire Fenwicke
Join the conversation
Brindabella Christian College

The entity behind Brindabella Christian College is facing two more challenges – one from a union and the other from an advocacy group – over aspects of its business. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The company behind Brindabella Christian College (BCC) is facing more legal battles. Two separate entities claim it has not paid owed superannuation and has been teaching children in unauthorised buildings.

It’s understood the Community for Constitutional Reform at BCC group (CCR@BCC) will lodge an application for a review of ACT Planning’s decision not to issue a Controlled Activity Order regarding alleged development application breaches by Brindabella Christian Education Limited (BCEL).

The school had been told its demountable Block C had to be removed from the site and permanently disconnected from all utilities before an occupancy certificate was issued for the junior school building.

An association spokesperson said that despite providing photos that showed the block had been relocated and recommissioned (rather than removed and decommissioned), no enforcement action was taken.

“The ACT Government has refused to take our complaint seriously and the school denied any wrongdoing,” they said.

“Our concern is that these demountables were recommissioned into service as classrooms by the school without the necessary building inspections or any certificate of occupancy and use, and it’s only in response to our complaint that a breach of the Building Act has been identified as a result of the lack of Building Approval.”

It appears the block has been used as classrooms since they were relocated until almost the end of Term 1.

An email from the executive principal Keturah Jones, seen by Region, indicates parents and students were only told Block C could no longer be used from 4 April.

“This afternoon I received good news … the new 2-storey building (D Block) is now open!” the email from Ms Jones stated.

“Over the holidays … classes will move into the new D Block building. Until then, only C1 and C2 classes will use the new building.”

READ ALSO ‘No one else’s child should almost have to die’: Mother’s fight to change diabetes management in schools

The CCR@BCC spokesperson argued parents expected learning spaces to be “safe and legally compliant” for their children and questioned why no one appeared to be taking responsibility.

“Children are potentially being put at risk when structures and services they use as classrooms haven’t got the necessary building approvals or certifications. What if something actually happens?” they said.

“It’s very concerning to our Association that lawyers for the school recently advised ACT Planning [that] Block C was ’empty and unused’ just days after the school moved children out of them. It certainly appears the school only took action because of the Show Cause Notice.

“This is yet another instance of a breach of BCC’s governance obligations, and one that covers up the use of potentially unsafe and unapproved classrooms, demonstrating little regard for children’s safety.”

It’s not the only new action being taken against BCEL.

The Independent Education Union NSW/ACT (IEU) has applied to the Fair Work Commission for a conference on unpaid superannuation for teachers and other college staff.

In April 2023, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ordered the company to start paying back the unpaid super by April this year.

IEU NSW/ACT deputy branch secretary David Towson said BCEL had been unable to confirm whether the unpaid super — including regular super and those from salary sacrifice payments — had been paid and if they would be paid on time in the future.

“We’ve had no answers,” he said.

Mr Towson couldn’t estimate the amount owed or the number of staff impacted as BCEL refused to release its financials.

Nor could he say how far back the issue may go.

“How can [our members at BCC] have confidence to come and do their jobs … when their basic legal entitlements aren’t being paid, and it’s been going on for far too long?” Mr Towson asked.

“Any money in super accounts should be compounding interest … it makes people at the school anxious that [BCEL] is not willing to address this, even though it’s subject to penalties.”

READ ALSO UNSW Canberra revises designs for its city campus project after feedback

Mr Towson said the union also wanted guarantees that going forward, super would be paid to staff every fortnight (rather than quarterly) so that any “hiccups” could be quickly picked up and rectified in the future.

“From our perspective, member entitlements must be honoured,” he said.

The union applied for the conference to begin on 17 May; however, it’s understood lawyers for BCEL asked for it to be deferred for two weeks.

It’s unclear whether this has been granted.

Region contacted BCEL for comment.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Stephen Saunders2:07 pm 15 May 24

Luckily, they’ve got a cross out the front, so they’re a preferred church school, they can do as they like.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.