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Unjust Treatment of Staff, Parents and Students


Eight different people have filled the role of Principal at Brindabella in the last eight years. 

Repeated losses of staff, teachers, and these executive, significantly impacts everyone in a school community, particular our children.    

Members of the Association hold common concerns around the volume and nature of publicly reported instances of unjust treatment of BCC Principals, staff, students and parents; the high staff and principal turnover; the higher than usual number of lawsuits and Fair Work Commission actions brought by former staff against the governing entity; the need for ACT Work Safe,  ACT Human Rights Commission and Access CBR Fair Trading interventions; and, the high volume of reported complaints.

The personal experiences of numerous BCC community members (as far back as 2015) including past and present parents, teachers and principals, and past directors, as well as many others, has motivated us to formally associate and collectively seek change through a return of responsibility for governance of the school to a broad and representative membership that includes parents.  Read more about our Objectives here


If you have been impacted, directly or indirectly, by such treatment or experiences, please consider joining the Community for Constitutional Reform at Brindabella Christian College (CCR@BCC) to help bring lasting change where a renewed BCEL can deliver quality Christian education not only to our children, but also to future generations of Canberra students. 

Read how to Get Involved here and add you voice to help bring lasting change.

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We have set out below, as fact, the chronology of Principal losses experienced by the school since the resignation of long serving and well respected Principal Liz Hutton in 2015.  The high turnover of Principals over the last eight years, several of which resulted in legal cases against the school, raises questions about the governance environment.

A sample of reported instances of unjust treatment to staff, parents and children is listed below:

  1. Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Workers Compensation Payouts Canberra Times (23 Aug 19)

  2. Worksafe Slaps Notices Over Bullying Claims Canberra Times (14 Dec 19)

  3. Christian College enrolment contract ruled 'unfair' by ACAT Riot Act (12 May 22)

  4. Private school enrolment contracts could be challenged after tribunal ruling SMH (28 May 22)

  5. Sweeping changes to education laws proposed after Brindabella unfair exclusion, Bradyn Dillon's death  Riot Act (11 April 22)

  6. Canberra mother doubts Brindabella Christian College will change after 'wrongfully' excluding her boys ABC News (23 Jan 21)

  7. Human Rights Commission slams Brindabella Christian College for expelling brothers Canberra Times (22 Jan 21)



Elizabeth Hutton (Principal 2003-2015)

Elizabeth Hutton led the school as Principal from 2003 until she resigned in 2015.  She also held a BCEL Directorship until the Principal position was prevented from holding a directorship through a constitutional amendment by the Directors in 2013.


Court records indicate she initiated legal action against BCEL and filed a claim in the Fair Work Commission.  The Association understands Ms Hutton entered into a Non-Disclosure Agreement with BCEL preventing her from disclosing the circumstances of her departure and the results of legal proceedings.



“Ms Hutton, Mr Handley and Mr Mewett (former Business Manager) are among a number of experienced staff to receive workers' compensation pay-outs for psychological injury on the job in recent years.”  The article also reports:


“Ms Hutton, who has signed a confidentiality agreement after reaching a settlement with the school, said she wanted to see the college thrive again and good governance was essential to the safety and health of its community”.


“Records from the Fair Work Commission released under Freedom of Information laws reveal at least seven cases have been brought against the college's parent company since 2010, including claims by former principals Liz Hutton and Mr Handley”.

Correspondence from parents, provided to the Association, shows little transparency was provided to the school community around the circumstances of Ms Hutton’s departure from the College in 2015 and requests to the Board to provide explanation were not fully addressed.  Her departure caused a wave of parent unrest and concerns around governance practices and lack of transparency which in turn triggered an independent review of the College governance and operations.



“The board of Brindabella Christian College has announced a review of the school’s operations amid rising tensions with some parents over a perceived lack of transparency and consultation in key decisions that affect the college community”. 


The article reports “more than 30 parents met to express concerns over the board’s governance” and indicates a letter outlining grievances of the school community included a “lack of elected parent representatives on the school’s self-appointed six member board” and the “board didn’t have a broadly based membership structure” that enabled them to express their views and vote on significant matters.   The article reports parents were advocating “for greater openness and disclosure on major decisions and policies, better communication between the board, P&F group and the rest of the College community and clear separation between the responsibilities of the board and school leaders”.

  • Principal Resignations, reported by The Canberra Times (30 Nov 17)


“Long term and well-respected former Principal Liz Hutton is understood to have left early 2015 after a dispute with the school board, and acting Principle Melanie Spencer (2016) is understood to have experienced similar issues”.

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Melanie Spencer, Acting Principal 2015


“Long term and well-respected former Principal Liz Hutton is understood to have left early 2015 after a dispute with the school board, and acting Principle Melanie Spencer (2016) is understood to have experienced similar issues”.

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Bruce Handley, Principal 2016 to T3 2017

Principal Bruce Handley’s sudden dismissal Term 3 2017 reportedly followed an application to “stop bullying” with the Fair work Commission. Parents had received notification from the school board earlier in the year to advise Mr Handley was on a period of extended leave.

"The decision came without warning and while I was waiting for the Fair Work Commission to deal with an application for an order to stop bullying that I had filed," Mr Handley said this week.”

“Mr Handley is pursuing the school board through the Fair Work Commission after first taking action for issues related to bullying”.

Mr Handley said he and his wife had to sell their home and move out of the city to escape the sight of Brindabella ads rolling past on buses.  The pressure was relentless," Mr Handley said. "Eventually, we just had to get out of town. All this money the board spend on lawyers to fight these claims, pushing insurance premiums up, it's all money that should be going to student education."  The article continues,


“Ms Hutton, Mr Handley and Mr Mewett (former Business Manager) are among a number of experienced staff to receive workers' compensation pay-outs for psychological injury on the job in recent years.”  The article continues,


“While the college says the former principal was let go after an external review and then delays during the college's registration process, Mr Handley believes he was targeted when he "started to push back".  I wanted to be able to hire staff myself when I needed them, not wait weeks and weeks for the board to vet people," he said. "Some they sent me weren't right for the job. [Someone else] they wanted me to fire because they had publicly criticised the board. And I was refusing to do certain things I thought were educationally unsound."

Canberra Times reports 22 Dec 2017

“Board Chair claims the sacking of Bruce Handley and subsequent reporting of the Canberra Times caused $150,000 in lost revenue”.   The article reveals the Board stated Mr Handley's sacking had nothing to do with a letter sent to parents re the “same sex marriage plebescite” but his “termination came after a review”…later claiming that it partly related to his “failure to ensure registration for the college to enable it to teach years 5 & 6 at Charnwood”.

The impact on the school community is clearly captured in media:



“Parents and staff at Brindabella Christian College have raised fresh concerns about the school’s governance following the dramatic sacking of Principal Bruce Handley”.

“The school is now bleeding staff and students, according to numerous people who have contact The Canberra Times over the past month.  Each person expressed deep concerns about the school’s governance and future”.

“It’s the second time tensions between parents and the school board have come to a head”.

But many past and present employees, including ex-principal Bruce Handley and former chief operating officer Phil Mewett, have described almost "cult-like" pressure exerted by the not-for-profit which governs the college through its closed board of four”.  The articles also states  “Records from the Fair Work Commission released under Freedom of Information laws reveal at least seven cases have been brought against the college's parent company since 2010, including claims by former principals Liz Hutton and Mr Handley”.


The Association observes Mr Handley also initiated legal action in the Commonwealth Courts against BCEL.  The Association understands that Mr Handley entered into a Non-Disclosure Agreement with BCEL preventing him from disclosing the circumstances of his departure or the results of legal proceedings.

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Carl Palmer, Acting Principal T4 2017

Following the departure of Bruce Handley, Carl Palmer, a founding Director of Brindabella Christian Education Limited from 2002 until 2006 and experienced Principal led the College in the Acting Principal role, following Bruce Handley's departure, through Term 4 to the end of 2017 school year.

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Peter Crimmins, Acting Principal T1 2018

Peter Crimmins, former BCEL Board Director 2005 to 2014, led the College in the Acting Principal role from the commencement of the 2018 school year until Christine Lucas commenced later in Term 1, 2018 (due to prior commitments with her previous employer).

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Christine Lucas, Principal 2018 to July 2019

On 22 July 2019 Christine Lucas handed her resignation to the BCEL Board and notified the BCC community, stating her decision was not made lightly and attributed her decision to governance issues. 

“I had always intended to complete the full term of her contract however

recent governance issues have caused me ongoing and increasing concern”.

She continues “I know I cannot continue to lead the College with the

current level of operational interference”.  C Lucas

Media reports indicate the school community is thrust into turmoil and uncertainty, many once again expressing governance concerns:

The Canberra Times reported 23 August 2019

“Last month, longstanding tensions between the school board and its community boiled over into a 169-strong petition as Brindabella's main parent association disbanded due to threats of legal action. Ms Lucas, who has served as principal since 2018, resigned just days later.” 


The article continues, “Now WorkSafe ACT has confirmed it is looking into allegations of bullying and harassment against staff as dozens of people speak out on what they call a toxic culture of intimidation and control wielded by the college's board”.

“It's one of the fastest growing private schools in Canberra, the name you see plastered to the sides of buses and across two campuses in the city's north.  But, in recent years, Brindabella Christian College has also drawn attention for a string of dramatic staff departures”.  The article reports,


“Last month, facing down heated questions from teachers about board interference at a staff meeting, Mr Zwajgenberg said there were still things in the college which were "operationally incorrect" and an internal audit, including into its finances, was being carried out.


He told staff they were respected as "the lifeblood" of the college but said: "When it comes to teaching, there will be times when we get involved at a different level and there are different reasons for that."  He stressed the board would not be changing and while "people and boards make mistakes" overhauling its structure was not the answer. In a letter to families, he said the board was not aware of any bullying and did not routinely monitor staff emails.”

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Suzanne Power, Acting Principal T3 2019 to T3 2021 & Executive Principal of Online Learning T4 2021

Ms Power was transitioned to the role of Acting Principal from within the school following the sudden resignation of Christine Lucas mid 2019.  The Association understand Ms Power was previously responsible for BCC's Curriculum Development K-6. 


It's understood from Ms Keturah Jones' announcement at the school's end of year 2021 BCC Presentation Night (below), Ms Power had taken on a role overseeing Brindabella Connected Learning some months earlier, and passed on the Principalship to Ms Jones.


In her speech, Ms Keturah Jones announced Ms Power was handing over the Principal position to her, so that Ms Powers could step into an "Executive Principal of Online Learning" role where she “could expand our online educational offerings to students beyond the ACT, and hopefully one day beyond Australia”.  

(2021 BCC Presentation Night video sourced from You Tube 'Greg z' account)

The Association observes however, Ms Powers Linked In profile (as at 19 March, 2023) indicates her role as Executive Principal of 'Brindabella Connected Learning' was brief and expired in November 2021 (prior to the December Presentation Night announcement).  It also states she returned to her role as Director of Curriculum K-6 at BCC for 2022. 

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Keturah Jones, Current Principal Since T4 2021

At the 2021 end of year, school Presentation Night (posted onto You Tube under the account "Greg Z"), Ms Jones announced she was taking over the role of Executive Principal from Ms Power who had filled the role as Acting Principal since Christine Lucas's departure in 2019.


Ms Jones previously held the role of Deputy Principal and commenced her employment with BCC as Head of Senior School in 2019.   

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