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QUT responds to racism case

AAP logoAAP 11/11/2016 Evan Schwarten

The university at the centre of a controversial racial discrimination lawsuit admits it would try to make sure the students involved knew about the case against them much earlier if it had its time over again.

The Queensland University of Technology has come under fire over its handling of the case, after it was revealed the students weren't notified of the complaint against them for more than a year.

In his first detailed public comments on the case, which was thrown out by the Federal Court in Brisbane last week, Vice-Chancellor Peter Coaldrake said it was the Australian Human Rights Commission's responsibility to notify the students.

He said the university had only facilitated contact with the students to avoid giving up their contact details without consent.

But he indicated the university would act differently if faced with a similar situation again.

"If a similar situation arose again, we would press the complainant and the AHRC to take steps to inform the students of the proceedings promptly after they were filed," Vice-Chancellor Peter Coaldrake said in a statement.

The case dates back to 2013 when one of the university's administration officers, Cindy Prior, asked three students to leave an indigenous only computer lab.

One of the students later complained about the incident on Facebook, writing: ""Just got kicked out of the unsigned indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation."

The post attracted a number of critical responses and Ms Prior went on leave soon after, before lodging a complaint under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The case against the students was dismissed in the Federal Court on Brisbane, but the university is still facing legal action from Ms Prior.

The case has been a rallying point for opponents of 18C and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week announced a parliamentary inquiry into the controversial clause.

Professor Coaldrake on Friday welcomed that inquiry.

"The level of current public debate concerning 18C would indicate a parliamentary inquiry is an appropriate forum for further debate," he said.

"The review will appropriately include an examination of whether reform is required in relation to the threshold for a complaint under 18C."

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