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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cindy Prior's case thrown out

Cindy Prior

Cindy Prior, an Indigenous staff member of Queensland University of Technology (QUT), lodged a complaint under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act after student Alex Wood posted on Facebook in 2013 "Just got kicked out of the unsigned Indigenous computer room. QUT is stopping segregation with segregation."

"I wonder where the white supremacist lab is" wrote another student, Jackson Powell, who is also being sued.  Wood, Powell and Calum Thwaites were all sued under the act over alleged Facebook posts in 2013.

They were accused of racially vilifying an indigenous woman - Cindy Prior.  The trio, along with the university and two staff members were sued by Ms Prior who was the administration officer who asked Mr Wood to leave the room.  Little did she know she had opened Pandora's box.

Soon after the story broke, Ms Prior had to leave her job because of stress.  She said she couldn't return to a job that required her to have face-to-face contact with "white" people and asked for $250,000 in damages.

But justice has prevailed.  On Friday, the lawsuit was thrown out by Brisbane's Federal Court Judge Michael Jarrett who found that Ms Prior did not have a reasonable chance of success.

Professor Gillian Triggs

Professor Gillian Triggs who is president of the Australian Human Rights Commission sat on the case for 14 months before the students were even told there had been a complaint made against them.  She allowed it to proceed, knowing full well it was a farce. 

Outside court on Friday, Mr Thwaites' lawyer, Tony Morris QC, slammed Professor triggs for allowing the case to get so far.

He said the commissioner should have told Ms Prior there was no substance to her claim and dismissed the complaint.  

"Triggs takes $400,000 a year out of the pockets of taxpayers of this country for a job she doesn't bother to do" Mr Morris said. "If the woman had any decency whatsoever, her resignation would be on the Governor-General's desk on Monday."

Calum Thwaites (L) and Tony Morris QC arriving at the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane.

Ms Prior was not in court for the judgment and is said to be facing a six-figure bill if the students recoup their legal costs from her.

But there's more.

Several other students involved in the incident who were also threatened by Ms Prior, settled out of court, reportedly for $5000 each - not a bad little earner - while QLT is still subject to a lawsuit.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for someone to participate in an act that is reasonably likely to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" someone because of their race or ethnicity.

This unjust act almost ruined the lives of several university students and Professor Gillian Triggs should hang her head in shame.