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QUT lab assistant appeals on 18C decision

AAP logoAAP 16/12/2016 Darren Cartwright

A Federal Court judge has asked why no indigenous university students were asked if they were offended during an appeal against a racial discrimination case being thrown out.

Justice John Dowsett was hearing an appeal by Queensland University Technology administration officer Cindy Prior after her racial discrimination case, under 18C, was dismissed by Federal Court judge Michael Jarrett on the grounds it did not have reasonable prospects of successfully bringing a racial hatred case.

Ms Prior attempted to sue three QUT students for $250,000 after they posted comments on Facebook about being asked to leave an indigenous-only computer room.

Justice Dowsett queried why no indigenous students had been asked for their views on the comments.

He asked if "any evidence" was called from QUT indigenous students to determine if they would have been offended or humiliated by the posts of students Calum Thwaites, Jackson Powell and Alex Wood.

"You're saying one can assume one cohort of people studying at QUT would have been offended?" he asked Ms Prior's barrister, Greg McIntyre SC.

Justice Dowsett said in his experience with native title "one of the things that does the most damage to indigenous people" was treating them all the same.

Mr McIntyre said the appeal should proceed because "it's a matter of the proper administration of justice".

He also indicated Ms Prior may struggle with the $200,000 of court costs she has been ordered to pay aftert the failure of the original case.

"She is not a person of significant means".

Ms Prior went on leave soon after becoming aware of a Facebook post from Alex Wood, one of the students who was asked to leave the computer lab.

"Just got kicked out of the unsigned indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation," Mr Wood wrote.

The post attracted a number of responses, including one from Mr Powell who wrote: 'I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is.'

Mr Thwaites was alleged to have written 'ITT N***rs' but the court has accepted he was not responsible for the post.

Ms Prior said in court documents earlier this year she was unable to continue working face-to-face with white people following the posts.

Justice Dowsett has reserved his decision.

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