Student, 9, refuses to stand up for Australian national anthem

By @chelean on
Australian flag
An Australian flag is flown at half mast during the dawn service to mark the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) commemoration ceremony at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, April 25, 2016. Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

A 9-year-old old student who refused to stand for the Australian national anthem has been called a “brat” by Senator Pauline Hanson. Primary student Harper Nielsen was initially disciplined by teachers for saying “Advance Australia Fair” was written for white people only.

When Year 4 student Harper refused to stand for the national attempt during the school assembly on Friday, her teachers told her to stand or leave the building, according to the Courier-Mail. She refused to do either, and therefore she was handed a lunchtime detention for “blatant disrespect.”

Harper reasoned that the national anthem was disrespectful for Indigenous Australians. She told ABC Brisbane that the school punished her for expressing her beliefs.

“When it says ‘we are young,’ it completely disregards the Indigenous Australians who were here before us for over 50,000 years,” she said. “When it was originally written, Advance Australia Fair meant advance the white people of Australia.”

Her father, Mark Nielsen, an associate professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, completely supports his daughter’s views. He said Harper has shown “incredible bravery” in sticking to what she believes in.

Nielsen said the school expressed desire to discuss the issue, but it wouldn’t budge to allow Harper to continue her peaceful protest.

“One of the things she was really hoping to do with this is to raise awareness and get people thinking about institutionalised racism and how that looks and how that might feel to people who these kinds of things affect,” he explained.

As for his daughter’s critics, Nielsen said Harper had a sound reason for her action. “This is not just someone wanting to do whatever the heck they want — this is just a very specific isolated incident for which there are sound, thoughtful reasons behind that, that have to do with human rights.”

Furious critics

Brisbane Aboriginal community elder Sam Watson has applauded Harper, saying her parents should be congratulated for raising a “very bright and vivacious young woman.” He called her “wise and courageous” for making a statement that reflects her beliefs.

However, not everyone was supportive of the student’s views. Senator Hanson thought Harper was a “brat” who has been “brainwashed.”

“I tell you what, I’d give her a kick up the backside,” she said in a video on Facebook. “We’re talking about a child who has no idea about history —what we should do and what we need to do to pull everyone together, regardless of their cultural backgrounds — we are all Australians,” she said.

Hanson said the parents should be blamed for encouraging their daughter, adding Harper should be kicked out of school.

Political commentator Mark Latham also told radio host Alan Jones that the student had a behavioural problem. The solution, he said, was to “kick her out.”

Jones agreed, saying the school should have told her parents that if she didn’t agree to the policy, they should “go somewhere else because we’re not accommodating you.”