Harper Nielsen’s protest is nothing more than virtue signalling
“Australians all let us rejoice” — that is the opening line of “Advance Australia Fair”, our national anthem in Australia, and to me it speaks for itself. It calls for every Australian to rejoice.
I’m an Australian. My great-great-grandparents moved here in 1844. Eddie, the Chinese man who has owned the house next door to mine for 45 years — he’s an Australian. Bill, the Greek man who lives on my other border and drinks at my RSL club with all of his Greek mates — he’s an Australian. The Lebanese lady who owns the villa on my battle-axe block — she’s an Australian. We all enjoy our existence in our neighbourhood and in Australia equally.
My friends of Indigenous origin — no one is more Australian than they are. We are all Australians, and we all love our country. When our national anthem is played, no one stands taller and prouder than one of my Indigenous mates, especially when wearing his military uniform.
Lately it has become trendy to disrespect national anthems by kneeling instead of standing. Kneeling in protest dates back to 1960s America, in the racially segregated state of Georgia where black Americans were barred from worshipping under the same church roof as white Americans. Those black Americans who were denied entry would kneel outside of the church.
Kneel-ins, as they became known, gradually became a common form of peaceful protest for many a cause. During the Vietnam War, many would often choose to remain seated during the national anthem, as a sign of protest against America’s involvement in that war.
Recently in Australia, nine-year-old Harper Nielsen refused to stand for our national anthem during her school assembly. Her reasoning is that she believes that “we are young” marginalises Indigenous people. She believes, and has been quoted by The Courier-Mail, that “Advance Australia Fair” means advance White Australia. Harper has also been quoted as saying: “When it says we are young it completely ignores the fact that indigenous culture was here for over 50,000 years before colonisation”.
It is true that Indigenous culture predates European settlement by many millennia, but our national anthem is about the nation that we have formed with the traditional landholders since the 18th century. Those 230 years have not gone without chapters of shameful history, but Australians today are no more responsible for that than the German people today are responsible for the Second World War.
But where does a nine-year-old schoolgirl get such ideals? Is it from the school that she is at loggerheads with over her defiance? Even though her parents have denied their opinions have influenced their daughter in any way, how else would she develop these views? Has Harper conducted a broad survey of our Indigenous citizens, or merely decided to feel offended on their behalf?
I have no doubt that there are Indigenous Australians who agree with Harper, just as I believe that there are those who do not. But Harper’s actions seem little more than virtue signalling in a world where such actions have become trendy, especially for the non-marginalised. Instilling this type of mentality in a child is no better than instilling racism in a child.
Anyone can protest and grandstand, but if Harper and her parents truly identify a flaw with our national anthem, then the sitting down that they should be doing is at a keyboard composing a better one.
But that’s just my two cents worth.
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