A young woman has been charged with illegally accessing files at the design institute which awarded the Prime Minister’s daughter a secret $60,000 scholarship, according to reports.
The Australian newspaper is this morning reporting that the woman charged is a 21-year-old communications student at the University of Technology Sydney who was a part time librarian at the Whitehouse Design Institute.
The woman is alleged to have breached Section 308H of the Crimes Act which prohibits “unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data held in a computer”.
The offence carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.
In a statement issued to New Matilda today, NSW police confirmed that a woman who “was a former employee of a fashion design institute” had been charged, but said that her age was understood to be 20 years, not 21.
In May 2014, New Matilda reported that documents and testimony cast doubt on claims made by both the Prime Minister and the Whitehouse Design Institute that the scholarship awarded to Frances Abbott was granted on the basis of her merit as a student.
After the story broke, a range of media outlets aired complaints from students at the institute about the awarding of the scholarship.
Subsequent reports revealed that Frances Abbott had also been given a job by the instituted but that she had no formal role listed in its staff register.
Leanne Whitehouse, the owner of the Whitehouse Institute of Design, had previously publicly lobbied the Prime Minister on higher education policy, although she described her approach as 'teasing'.
The Institute also used Frances Abbott in a campaign lobbying for further federal accreditation for federal government course approval. Whitehouse CEO Ian Tudor strongly denied any accusation that doing so was improper.
And it later emerged that the only other time a substantial proportion of fees were waived for a student in Whitehouse’s 25 year history was for the daughter of the Institute’s owner, Billie Whitehouse. Whitehouse disputes this, noting that children of staff have also received discounted educations.
The woman who has been charged will face the Downing Centre Local Court on September 18.
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