A nine-year-old Australian girl, who refused to stand during the country’s national anthem, has been attacked by prominent politicians, who have called for her to be kicked out of school.

The girl, Harper Nielsen, told CNN affiliate Nine News that she sat during her country’s national anthem because she believed it was disrespectful to Indigenous Australians. The anthem, titled “Advance Australia Fair”, contains the line “Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free”.

She believes the anthem is disrespectful to Indigenous Australians

Harper, who lives in the state of Queensland, added that, “(But) when it says Advance Australia Fair, it means advance the white people. And when it says ‘we are young’, it completely disregards the indigenous Australians who were here before us for 50,000 years.”

Widespread criticism

Australia’s indigenous population represents about 2% of the total population. The population has a lower life expectancy and twice the infant mortality rate than the rest of the country. Senator Pauline Hanson said Australian schools were brainwashing children and called for Harper’s suspension in a video statement posted on social media.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Sydney-based radio station 2GB that the girl should follow the rules. “It’s just a sign of good manners and courtesy to stand for the national anthem,” the former leader said. 

Queensland politician Jarrod Bleijie, the state’s shadow minister for Education, called Harper a “brat”. He also called out her parents for using her as a political pawn. He wrote that Harper should be suspended if she continued to sit during the anthem.

Parents call her brave

Mark Nielsen, Harper’s father, expressed his “amazement” to CNN. Mark said he was proud of his daughter and expressed happiness over how she handled the protest and then the controversy. He also mentioned that his family had been overwhelmed by the positive responses received from across Australia, including the indigenous community. As a father, he reflected that people can say what they want. He said people should not call her a brat without actually meeting her, since it seems a little weak-minded.

The Queensland Department of Education said the school never suggested Harper would be expelled or suspended for refusing to stand during the anthem. The school said they tried being respectful of her wishes. They provided her the alternative of not singing along.

Picture Credit: The Courier Mail

Also Read: Girls Beaten Up In Rajasthan School For Singing National Anthem ‘Softly’

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