Yvette Miller with daughter Harper Nielsen, 9. Picture: Annette Dew
Yvette Miller with daughter Harper Nielsen, 9. Picture: Annette Dew

Heavy hitter who’s standing with Harper

ABORIGINAL elder and author Sam Watson has hit back at critics of nine-year-old Harper Nielsen, who refuses to stand for the national anthem because she says its not inclusive of indigenous Australians.

Mr Watson said we should applaud the schoolgirl her for challenging the status quo, not attack her.

"Her parents should be congratulated for raising a brilliant, thinking young student who won't be forced to do something that is against her deeply held beliefs," he said.

Mr Watson said he wanted to remind people of Rosa Parks.

"Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus and Martin Luther King said 'when that woman sat down I stood up'," he said.

"It inspires people to question and challenge."

The Courier-Mail reported yesterday that the Kenmore South State School Year 4 student had been threatened with suspension and given detention because she refused to stand for the national anthem.

She has vowed to continue her peaceful protest against Advance Australia Fair, and despite gaining national attention the youngster said she had "no regrets".


Harper Nielsen, 9, isn’t backing down. Picture: Annette Dew
Harper Nielsen, 9, isn’t backing down. Picture: Annette Dew

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday insisted it was a matter for the school, the student and her parents to solve.

But she slammed Opposition frontbencher Jarrod Bleijie's tweet calling Harper a brat.

"I don't think we need MPs out there having their views such as that on Twitter," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"I think he probably needs to grow up a bit."

Mr Bleijie questioned what was behind Harper's stance.

"Shame on her parents for using her as a political pawn," he tweeted.

"Stop the silly protest and stand and sing proudly… Suspension should follow if she continues to act like a brat."

Queensland senator Pauline Hanson said Harper should be pulled out of school. In a video uploaded to Facebook, Ms Hanson claimed Harper had been brainwashed.

"I'm hearing from too many people that feel our kids are being brainwashed in our educational system, this transgender sex stuff, this safe school problem, what the hell is going on?

"I'm angry about this … This kid is headed down the wrong path … take her out of the school."

Callers to talkback and shock jocks around the country let their feeliings be known, with many criticising the girl's parents.

Shock jock Alan Jones and controversial commentator Mark Latham said Harper was "defying the school".

"We used to have special schools for children with behaviour problems," Mr Latham said on the 4BC radio show.

"Not standing is a behavioural problem, so kick her out."

Jones was furious about the Year 4 Kenmore South State School student's decision.

"What on earth do you do … other than call the parents in and say 'listen, these are the rules here, if you don't like them you do as we say or go somewhere else because we're not accommodating you".

Harper told The Courier-Mail yesterday that the line in the national anthem, "for we are young and free" disregarded Aborigines who had lived in Australia for tens of thousands of years, and only saw Australia as a country post-colonisation.

Jones was incensed by this, and said that "colonisation brought the kind of tremendous wealth that all Australians now enjoy".

Aboriginal activist Sam Watson has applauded Harper’s critical thinking.
Aboriginal activist Sam Watson has applauded Harper’s critical thinking.

Despite the 4BC commentary, Harper has received a lot of support online.

"I do applaud her for considering the words of the national anthem, a lot of people just rattle it off and don't consider the meaning and I also applaud her strength of character to stand up for what she believes in," Today show host Georgie Gardner said yesterday morning.

Meanwhile, co-host Karl Stefanovic levelled blame at the parents.

"The schools have rules, I'm exasperated by this this morning, so if you don't like that as a parent, if you don't like that your child will have to stand for the anthem then go somewhere else," he said.

"Schools have rules and they have to be abided by."

Harper's father Mark Nielsen, who is an associate professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, told ABC Radio his daughter had shown "incredible bravery".

"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 said.