I apologise in advance for posting two stories in a row about paedophile related topics, but this morning when I woke to hear that Rolf Harris had been formally charged with nine counts of indecent assault, and a further four counts of making indecent images of a child I was saddened.
Rolf Harris is a part of my childhood. I grew up listening to what I guess might be one of his Greatest Hits albums which I played over and over again on my cassette recorder. I loved the songs like I’ve Lost My Mummy, Sun Arise, The Court of King Caractacus, Two Little Boys (a song that my brother and I used to think was about us, but looking back on the lyrics, I am thinking, no), Jake the Peg, and the ever popular chart topping Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport which was originally recorded in 1960 and was re-recorded with the help of The Wiggles in 2000.
And then there’s his Australian flavoured Christmas song, Six White Boomers. I can’t honestly remember this being sung at either of the two big televised Carols By Candlelights; Sydney’s Carols in the Domain, or Melbourne’s Christmas Eve Carols By Candlelights but I would guess it has been at least once or twice before. And without doing any research, I am sure that no one would begrudge me from suggesting that Rolf may have performed the song himself some time over the 75 year history of Melbourne’s Carols, or in the 30 year history of Sydney’s Carols. And seeing that he has resided in England for such a long time, it would not surprise me to hear that he has performed the song for the UK audience at either a live event or for a television Christmas special.
In 1988 when I was 14 years old, I travelled to England with my mum and dad to finally meet all of my cousins, aunts and uncles who I had only ever seen in photos or had talked to briefly on the phone. Both my parents were born and raised in England and they only moved to Australia in 1972, two years before my birth. It was during this six and a half week holiday that I had a chance encounter with the old Wobble Board playing maestro himself. We were at a small airport for some reason (to this day I still can’t remember why, maybe I should ask my dad) and I can remember seeing one of my childhood heroes walking towards us. I was star-struck to say the least.
Off memory, he was a nice guy, but then again my judgement might be clouded by the fact that I have been a long time fan of his work. And sadly, as I mentioned, I was 14 years old, and if the allegations are true, it was only two years prior to me meeting him that his alleged indecent assault on a girl aged 14 occurred. I am not suggesting that he showed any undue kindness or affection towards me because I was a young teen; again off memory, I think he was pleasantly surprised to randomly meet a big Australian fan of his in England. And although it doesn’t excuse him, it would seem he and some of the other celebrities arrested as a result of Operation Yewtree were for the most part connected to abuse against teenage girls, so as pathetic as this might sound to you, I feel vindicated (possibly the wrong word) that he was interested in meeting a fan, rather than any else untoward.
But back to that connection with The Wiggles. In 2000 The Wiggles introduced a younger audience to the wonderful song that is Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport. Sure they had to drop some of the more controversial lyrics – I’ll let you research that yourself – but I for one was pleased that younger generations were going to be able to enjoy the Wobble Board just as much as us Generation X kids did. I have embedded the below. I didn’t become a father until much later than this 2000 release date, but I was still very aware of this association between two of Australia’s finest entertainment exports.
In 2011 however, two years into our constant over-playing and inescapable listening to The Wiggles, they released the CD and DVD entitled Ukulele Baby which once again contained a joint production; The Good Ship Fabulous Flea! (Featuring Rolf Harris). On the international release Rolf Harris took pride of place on the top right hand corner as shown in the picture above. On the Australian release however the picture is replaced by a pop-up balloon which says featuring Rolf Harris along with another local celebrity guest, Daryl Somers. The picture of Rolf does however make an appearance on the back cover of the DVD.
How do I know this? We have this in our collection. And that is what made me think about writing this. For those of you who do click on the YouTube video below, you will notice that this is from ABC 4 Kids Music which is the official YouTube channel. When I started writing this during my lunch break today I noticed that already there was one person who clicked on this video and then proceeded to tell ABC Music that they should take this down as Rolf had been charged. But I disagree.
I am not coming into bat for someone who had been charged with what I believe is a horrendous crime. I am not going to use “allegedly” from this point on, or say “innocent until proven guilty.” The reason for this is simple. By watching this video on YouTube or by putting the DVD on for our kids I am not rewarding Rolf Harris for his possible indiscretions. I am not supporting him with some bias as he is/was – I haven’t decided my stance yet – a hero of mine. What I am doing is letting our kids enjoy the wonderful work of The Wiggles and sharing with them the joy that I had when listening to Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport. I think if right now I took this DVD from our boys’ collection that would be ridiculous.
I am going to shelter them from watching any news story about this case. We are lucky that tonight we are just about to go out and watch my wife play in her soccer grand final so we won’t have the chance to see it on the nightly news. And tomorrow morning it will not surprise me if it is a major story on the breakfast television news shows I like to wake up to. So maybe for a little while, I will not have the news playing in our house. While we will protect them from child molesters and paedophiles, right now our almost 5-year-old and just-turned 2-year-old do not need to know about the charges laid against Mr Harris.
So I am not going to burn the DVD – that is in a fire, not on our Nero DVD Burner program – and I am not going to stop pressing the link to this classic from The Wiggles featuring Rolf Harris (or is that the other way around?) And I don’t think that in twenty years time should either boy do their university thesis on The History of Popular Culture in Australia, will they turn to my wife or I and suggest that we ruined their childhood by showing them these videos with a convicted criminal appearing in them.
Make up your own mind. I am not going to tell you what to do. But I can not see any reason why The Wiggles CDs and DVDs featuring Rolf Harris should be pulled from store shelves, destroyed from children’s entertainment collections, or companies and organisations involved with the distribution or selling of these CDs or DVDs boycotted for continuing supporting this product. And no, do not ask ABC 4 Kids Music to take down this video from their YouTube channel.
Tell me your thoughts on this…