Conservatives label schoolgirl ‘brat’ after Australian national anthem protest
Harper Nielsen said the song Advance Australia Fair ‘completely disregards the Indigenous Australians’
A nine-year-old schoolgirl sparked debate in Australia on Wednesday after refusing to stand for the national anthem to protest alleged institutional racism.
Student Harper Nielsen was given detention last week for not joining classmates in a rendition of Advance Australia Fair, a song she claims ignores the nation’s indigenous people.
“When it was originally written, Advance Australia Fair meant advance the white people of Australia,” she told national broadcaster ABC after the incident was reported by local media. “When it says ‘we are young’ it completely disregards the Indigenous Australians who were here before us.”
Aboriginal culture stretches back tens of thousands of years before the British began colonising Australia in the late 1700s. They are among the most disadvantaged Australians, with higher rates of poverty, ill-health and imprisonment than any other community.
Harper said she arrived at the decision to protest herself, but had discussed the issue with her parents.
The school’s principal had met Harper and her parents to discuss alternatives to her protest, the Queensland state education department said.
“The school has been respectful of the student’s wishes and has provided other alternatives including remaining outside the hall or not singing during the national anthem,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
The department denied reports that Harper faced suspension or expulsion for her protest.
Harper’s stance on the anthem irked Australia’s most prominent conservative figures.
Former Wallabies rugby coach turned radio shock jock Alan Jones suggested her parents be told to leave the school if they disagreed with “the rules”.
Australian politician Pauline Hanson, who has made a career of leaping on such controversial issues, labelled Harper “a brat”, before taking aim at the parents for encouraging “divisive” behaviour.
“Here we have a kid that has been brainwashed and I tell you what, I would give her a kick up the backside,” the 64-year-old said in a video on Facebook.