Conservative politicians in Australia have called for a 9-year-old girl to be kicked out of school for refusing to stand for the country’s national anthem, a decision she has justified by pointing out lyrics that she believes advocate white supremacy and are disrespectful to indigenous Australians. Harper Nielsen, an elementary student at Kenmore South State School in Queensland, told Nine News that the very name of the country’s anthem, “Advance Australia Fair,” was clearly meant to mean “advance the white people.” She also noted that other lyrics referring to the country’s residents as “those who’ve come across the seas” and the “young and free” gave a clear indication that the anthem was not intended to represent the interests of the country’s indigenous peoples.
“When it says ‘we are young’ it completely disregards the indigenous Australians who were here before us for 50,000 years,” the 9-year-old said.
Nielsen’s mild protest drew an outsize response from right-wing politicians who clamored to condemn the child as a “brat” who deserved to be removed from her school for refusing to shut up and “follow the rules.” Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott denounced the child for lacking the “good manners and courtesy to stand,” while Jarrod Bleijie, the state’s shadow minister for education, publicly called her a “brat,” accused of her disrespecting the country’s veterans, and demanded she “stop the silly protest … and sing proudly.”
Shame on her parents for using her as a political pawn.Stop the silly protest and stand and sing proudly your National Anthem. Refusing to stand disrespects our country and our veterans. Suspension should follow if she continues to act like a brat #qldpol https://t.co/F0StkeBJDa
— Jarrod Bleijie (@JarrodBleijieMP) September 12, 2018
“Here we have a kid who’s been brainwashed and I’ll tell you what, I’d give her a kick up the backside,” added right-wing senator Pauline Hanson, who was apparently unaware that threatening children with violence to force them to take on specific beliefs could also be construed as “brainwashing.”
Neilsen’s father, Mark Nielsen, told CNN that the family had received hate mail in wake of his daughter’s protest, but also numerous messages from support from other Australians, including the indigenous community.
“(I’m) amazed at her capacity for seeing things that don’t feel right and having the strength to try and right them,” Mark said of his daughter. “I don’t have that, so to see someone so young is really astonishing, and I’m just incredibly proud … People can say what they want. Calling her a brat without having actually met her seems a little weak-minded but again, I defend their right to be free to say what they feel.” In the below video, see more from the girl’s interview, in which she explains, “I’m not someone who just obliges the rules of older people just because they’re older.”
Read the full story at CNN.