Anthem boycott leads to detention
A NINE-year-old girl has been threatened with suspension and given detention because she refuses to stand for the national anthem.
Harper Nielsen and her parents have been at loggerheads with Kenmore South State School after it demanded the Year 4 student stand or leave the building - and her refusal to do either resulted in detention and an attempt to force her to sign a written apology or risk suspension.
She has vowed to continue her peaceful protest against Advance Australia Fair, which she said was not inclusive of indigenous Australians.
"The reason why I don't sing it or stand is because - Advance Australia Fair means advance White Australia," she said.
"When it says we are young it completely ignores the fact that indigenous culture was here for over 50,000 thousand years before colonisation."
So at the start of this term she started her own peaceful protest by refusing to stand for the anthem at assembly.
The young girl's protest comes as NFL players, started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have been kneeling during the US's national anthem as a gesture on behalf of people who were oppressed because of their race.
The reaction of the school has been to demand she stand, or on other occasions instruct her to leave the building.
Her continued refusal to do either has become an issue for the school administration.
Last week she was given detention during lunch and asked to sign an apology for "blatant disrespect" associated with her refusal to follow the teacher's instructions.
She was told that she could not leave the office until she had signed a written apology and that she could be suspended for continuing the behaviour.
Harper's mother, Yvette Miller, has met with the principal but the school and Harper remain at loggerheads.
The school has offered for Harper to not attend assembly at all or sit outside the hall when the anthem is played.
But Harper is not happy with those options and although the conflict makes her feel anxious she feels remaining seated during the anthem is the best way to make her point.
"I just imagine what it would feel like for all of your friends to be singing the anthem if you were an indigenous person, that makes me determined to keep going," she said.
The school does not do a welcome to country at the start of assembly and although Harper said she would welcome its introduction it would not change the way she feels about the anthem.
A Department of Education spokeswoman said Kenmore South State School had been respectful of the student's wishes and has provided other alternatives to singing the national anthem.
"State schools set out clear standards of behaviour that they expect from their students in their Responsible Behaviour Plan for Students," she said.
Her father, Mark Nielsen, said they could not be prouder of their daughter.
"I couldn't tell you how proud we are of her, she's amazing, she's an incredibly brave kid and to have such resolve and be willing to accept anything that comes her way for taking a stand for what she believes in, we're very proud of who she is as a person" he said.
"She has had problems with bullies in the past and a lot of kids would want to hide but the fact she's willing to put herself in a public situation and make a stand for something she believes in is remarkable."