Last week we learned the Frances Abbott had been the recipient of a $60,000 scholarship to the private and exclusive Whitehouse Institute of Design. Very valid questions were raised as to the legitimacy of the scholarship, due to the fact that the school firmly states that scholarships do not exist for the Bachelor of Design degree that she undertook at the institute, as well as both her own, and her father’s – Prime Minister Tony Abbott – relationship with the school’s Chairman Les Taylor. Taylor himself is a known, and large, donor to the NSW Liberal Party, and the scholarship was not listed on Tony Abbott’s Members’ Interests Register. It just so happened that in the current budget, higher education funding was extended, for the first time, to private institutions. This includes the Whitehouse Institute.

Though both the Prime Minister’s office and the Institute themselves have been adamant that Ms Abbott’s scholarship was awarded on merit through a non-advertised and discretionary scholarship known as the Chairman’s or Managing Director’s scholarship, questions have been raised about the nature of that so-called “merit” due to the fact that the scholarship was kept secret from students and most high-level staff at the school, and was not advertised before its awarding, nor announced afterwards. In fact, it seems that in the entire history of the school, the scholarship had only ever been awarded once before. Despite questioning, the school refused to disclose who that other recipient was.

And, as it turns out, there seems to be a very good reason that they’re preferring to be tight-lipped on that one. Speaking with Studio 10, New Matilda‘s editor Chris Graham revealed that the only other recipient of the scholarship was Billie Whitehouse. That surname is not a coincidence, as she is the daughter of the Leanne Whitehouse, the founder and owner of the Whitehouse Institute.

So while every other student who attends the institute leaves there with an initial HECS Debt of some $68,000 – a debt that will increase at a far more rapid rate thanks to the re-aligning of University fee interest rates set forth in this year’s budget – the two students who receive a doggedly clandestine free ride are the daughter of the school’s owner and the daughter of the Prime Minister.

Awarded on “merit.” Yeah, righto.

UPDATE: Leanne Whitehouse has issued a statement responding to assertions that Billie Whitehouse received the Chairman’s Scholarship thusly: “The Chairman’s Scholarship (formerly the Managing Director’s Scholarship) has been awarded from time to time, at my discretion.
My daughter, Billie, studied at Whitehouse. She was not awarded a scholarship but studied here free of charge. Many private tertiary providers have similar arrangements for their children and the children of their senior staff and teachers. The school is wholly owned by myself and it is not unusual nor surprising that, when my daughter showed a strong interest in a career in design, she pursued this interest at Whitehouse.”

Photo: Lisa Maree Williams via Getty Images.