I'm offended by Rudd - girl in Aust nudity storm

Last updated 08:50 08/07/2008
Fairfax Media
REALLY, REALLY OFFENDED: Olympia Nelson, 11, poses with the nude picture taken when she was six by her mother, Melbourne photographer Polixeni Papapetrou. Nelson has hit back at comments by Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, that he 'cannot stand' the naked image of her on the cover of an art magazine.

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The Australian girl at the centre of the latest controversy over child nudity in art said she was "really, really offended" at comments by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that he "cannot stand" the naked image of her, aged six, on the cover of an art magazine.

At the same time the Opposition leader, Brendan Nelson, described the use of her picture as "a two-fingered salute to the rest of society".

Olympia Nelson, now 11, appears naked on the cover of Art Monthly Australia in a photo taken when she was six by her mother, Polixeni Papapetrou, a Melbourne photographer.

Speaking to the media outside her home yesterday alongside her father, the art critic Robert Nelson, Olympia said she was "really really offended" at Mr Rudd's comments that he could not stand the image of her.

But the federal Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin, joined the chorus condemning the pictures yesterday, saying children were being sexualised in ways that robbed them of a childhood.

The federal Minister for Arts, Peter Garrett, who has described the publication of the photos as "needlessly provocative", said the Government would call on the Australia Council to devise a set of protocols addressing the use of images of children in art and publications that receive government funding.

But Olympia Nelson said she loved the photo used on the cover of the arts journal in protest at the recent furore over the work of the photographer Bill Henson.

"It is one of my favourites, if not my favourite photo, my mum has ever taken of me, and she has taken so many photos of me," she said.

"I think that the picture my mum took of me had nothing to do with being abused, and I think nudity can be a part of art.

"I'm really, really offended by what Kevin Rudd had to say about this picture."

Dr Nelson said he would ask the police to investigate the use of the picture of Olympia Nelson and added that it warranted a review of classification laws.

Dr Nelson said he was no wowser, but "the use and sexualisation of children in this way is indefensible, whether in the name of art, parental consent or political protest".

"If you were sitting on a bus and the person next to you turned on their laptop and this was the screensaver, you would be very concerned. What these people have done in this publication and using the photographs of this child in this way is send a two-fingered salute to the rest of society."

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Dr Nelson said parental consent was inconsequential.

"Once consent for use of a child in this way has been given, it can never be taken back."

A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police said yesterday that it had received no referral over the images.

But it was the context in which the photographs were published alongside other more disturbing sexual images in the magazine that needed to be taken into account, said the director of Women's Forum Australia, Melinda Tankard Reist.

"The little girl is in there along with bondage images, including one of a Japanese schoolgirl in school uniform trussed up in rope while another image shows an adult woman also trussed up, with breasts and genitals exposed."

Ms Tankard Reist said it was hard to talk about art restoring dignity when another image in the magazine showed a woman being fellated by an octopus.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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