Joe Hockey has facilitated a special tax concession for donations to the Tanzanian boarding school he visited at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro as an opposition MP in 2009.
Founded by Australian Gemma Sisia, the School of St Jude in Arusha provides a free, private education to 1800 of the region’s “exceptionally poor” students, giving them the chance to elevate their families out of intergenerational poverty.
The government’s intervention to grant the school deductible gift recipient status will allow the charity to collect donations and write tax receipts year round, rather than funnelling annual donations through Rotary clubs.
Mark Cubit, chairman of the School of St Jude’s international board, said it was usually “a very arduous process” for offshore charities to obtain DGR status, saying some applications “can be the size of two Sydney phone books”.
“The difference with St Jude is that members of this government have visited the school and seen it with their own eyes,” Mr Cubit told The Australian.
“This sort of special listing is probably granted to only three or four charities a year.”
The intervention was announced yesterday after a “catch up” between Ms Sisia and Mr Hockey, Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Canberra on Wednesday.
Ms Sisia, who is on a national speaking tour, said she was “overwhelmed” by the support she had received, including from “Joe and his colleagues that have helped to get us where we are today”.
Mr Hockey said: “The Tanzanian-Australian school started with three children in 2002. The school now educates 1800 students, many of whom are boarders, who receive a free education from kindy equivalent to Year 12.
“Only one child per family is entitled to attend school and they must be exceptionally poor to qualify for attendance. These students can go on to university to be doctors, teachers and engineers.”
Donations by Australians fund 90 per cent of the school’s costs.
Although the school was founded on Christian principles, it selects students only on the basis of their disadvantage. Its student body is about 40 per cent Catholic, 40 per cent Lutheran and 20 per cent Muslim, reflecting local demographics.