Harper Nielson, a nine-year-old, Year Four student from Brisbane, has made domestic and international headlines in the last 48 hours, after she was given detention by her school for refusing to stand for the national anthem in school assemblies for most of this term.
Harper claims the lyrics disrespect Indigenous Australians, and so has chosen to remain seated when the song is sung. Last night, she explained her reasoning Channel Ten’s The Project.
“I feel we should respect Indigenous people and their culture,” Harper said.
“It says Advance Australia Fair, which when it was originally written meant advance white Australia. It says we are young, but we’re not young if we count the Indigenous Australians, who were here for over 50,000 before the British colonised Australia.”
— The Project (@theprojecttv) September 12, 2018
The panel asked Harper how she felt about being given the option by the school to leave the room when it was anthem time.
“I don’t think I should be made to leave the room or do something different because I have different beliefs,” Harper said.
Her father, Mark Nielson, an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, said he was thoroughly impressed by his daughter’s resolve and stance.
“This all came out of a series of conversations we had as a family. Harper started questioning what was in the anthem, and we started talking with her about it. That’s kind of really all there was to it, and she took it from there.”
Mark added that he was “really proud of her for wanting to follow through on her beliefs”.
No matter what you think – whether you agree with Harper on this issue or not – it’s clear that this goes beyond a little girl wanting to shake up boring school assemblies. Way beyond.
Harper has thought carefully about something, and come up with an opinion. And she’s decided to do something about it. That is a completely natural, human thing to do. In fact, isn’t that what we all encourage our kids to do? Aren’t we always asking them to be independent thinkers?