"There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one's native land." - Euripides 431 B.C.

Pearson denies phantom students cost millions

Australian-Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Author: Jamie Walker

NOEL Pearson has disputed that government funding for ``phantom'' students and millions in overpayments took place at a showpiece indigenous school in north Queensland.

Through a spokesman, the prominent Aboriginal leader also took issue yesterday with the leaking to The Australian of a letter in which federal Schools Minister Peter Garrett rejected his request that Canberra write off a $5.5 million bill to Djarragun College near Cairns for over-reporting student numbers between 2008 and last year.

``It was most disappointing to read in today's Australian newspaper the contents of a letter sent to Mr Pearson from Minister Peter Garrett -- before he had received the letter,'' the spokesman said.

``Mr Pearson has previously advised Minister Garrett that the accusation of `phantom students' and alleged overpayments has not been proven, and is therefore unreliable.

``The new board and the Djarragun staff have been assisting with a forensic audit of the operations and administration of Djarragun College, and it is pleasing that a more factual picture is emerging.''

Mr Pearson took over as chairman of the troubled college last year after it was engulfed in a scandal over the alleged rorting of government funding, forcing its then principal to stand aside and for changes to be made to the board.