A university worker who allegedly told three white students to leave an Indigenous computer lab has launched a $250,000 legal action claiming racial discrimination.
Cindy Prior, a former employee of the Queensland University of Technology’s Indigenous office, has launched the action against five students and three staff members.
When the three male students were attempting to access computers in the Oodgeroo Unit at the university’s Brisbane campus in May 2013, Ms Prior asked them ‘whether they were Indigneous’, according to court documents seen by the Daily Mail.
She allegedly told the men they were in ‘an Indigenous space for Aboriginal Torres Strait students’ and asked them to leave.
A short while later one of the students logged on to the QUT Stalker Space Facebook page to vent about the experience.
“I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is,” Jackson Powell wrote according to court documents.
Another student Calum Thwaites allegedly said: “ITT n*****s”, however he strongly denies writing the slur.
Kyran Findlater, the third student involved, also posted comments online according to the Federal Circuit Court documents.
“My Student and Amenity fees are going to furbish rooms in the university where inequality reigns supreme?” he is reported to have written.
“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".
QUT lecturer Dr Sharon Hayes is accused of saying the situation seemed ‘a bit silly’ and questioned whether asking students if they were Indigenous was a breach of the university’s policy.
After reading the comments, Ms Prior allegedly went home feeling sick and stressed with fears for her safety, the Daily Mail reported.
Court papers reveal she felt ‘offence, embarrassment, humiliation and psychiatric injury’.
When equity director Mary Kelly reviewed the Facebook comments, she allegedly told Ms Prior it was just ‘students being nasty'.
“With the small amount of contact I’ve had with the students, it is clear that these students aren’t racist.
“There is no white supremacy group at QUT. Check out what racial vilification is before you jump in.
“They’re not going to come into your office with a baseball bat,” the documents quoted Ms Kelly as saying.
Almost two years later, Ms Prior is seeking costs totaling $247,570.52 under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The act covers any offensive behaviour targeting race, colour or national or ethnic origin.