Cindy Prior, an ex-employee of the Queensland University of Technology’s Indigenous office, launched a legal action against five students and three members of the staff. She is seeking $250,000 over racial discrimination. Prior had asked three white students using the Indigenous computer lab at the university’s Brisbane campus to leave as the lab is for the use of indigenous students, in May 2013.
The Daily Mail reported that, according to court documents, Prior has asked the three students “whether they were indigenous.” This followed a spate of updates expressing grievances by the students on Facebook.
Prior claimed she suffered “offence, embarrassment, humiliation and psychiatric injury” as a result of the actions and comments of the five students and three staff members. She further stated that, after reading the comments, she went home feeling sick and worried over her safety.
One of the students allegedly expressed his grievances on the QUT Stalker Space Facebook page, a short while after Prior asked them to leave the lab.
“I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is,” Jackson Powell wrote according to court documents, as quoted by the Yahoo 7 News.
The News Corp reported that the same student wrote in his affidavit in response to the lawsuit, “I detest any form of racial discrimination. As an Australian and a university student, I was appalled to learn that racial segregation was being practised on the campus of my university.”
He added, “Of course, I have no objection to people of the same ethnicity being provided with a place where they can meet and discuss issues of common concern. To my mind, however, it is a very different matter when educational facilities, such as a computer lab provided by the university, are barred to all students except those of a particular race or ethnicity.”
The Federal Circuit Court documents showed that Kyran Findlater, another student involved in the incident, also posted comments online.
“My Student and Amenity fees are going to furbish rooms in the university where inequality reigns supreme?” he is reported to have written, as quoted by Yahoo 7 News. “I believe if we have to pay to support these sorts of places, there should at least be more created for general purpose use, but again, how do these sorts of facilities support interaction and community within QUT? All this does is encourage separation and inequality.”
Equity director Mary Kelly allegedly told Prior that the students were just being nasty after reviewing the Facebook comment. She said that these students are not racist and asked Prior to check what racial vilification is before jumping in.