Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 13:03 UK

Australian PM in new nude art row

Olympia Nelson
Olympia Nelson was six when the picture was taken

A child pictured naked on the cover of an Australian arts magazine has said she is "offended" by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's criticism of the photo.

Mr Rudd re-ignited a row over children in art when he criticised the July cover of Art Monthly Australia.

The girl, Olympia Nelson, 11, has said she is proud of the image taken by her mother, a photographer, in 2003.

The magazine's editor said the cover was in protest at the closing of a photo exhibition of naked children.

Childhood innocence

Mr Rudd had reacted strongly to the front cover image, saying: "Frankly, I can't stand this stuff."

He added: "We're talking about the innocence of little children here. A little child cannot answer for themselves about whether they wish to be depicted in this way."

He was supported by opposition Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson, who described the image as a "two-fingered salute to the rest of society".

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.

Olympia Nelson, 11

Officials have said they will review the magazine's public funding.

Editor Maurice O'Riordan wrote in the magazine that he knew the photograph would be controversial, but that he hoped to "restore some dignity to the debate... and validate nudity and childhood as subjects for art".

In May, an exhibition of pictures of naked children by photographer Bill Henson was closed before it opened, in a case that provoked a nationwide debate over censorship.

'Part of art'

However, Olympia Nelson appeared at a press conference with her father, the art critic Robert Nelson, and said the picture was her favourite image.

It shows her sitting naked in front of a painted landscape. The photograph was taken by her mother, Melbourne photographer Polixeni Papapetrou, when she was six years old.

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

Kevin Rudd - 25/6/2008
Mr Rudd said he could not stand the picture of the naked girl

"I love the photo so much," she aded. "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."

The Australian Childhood Foundation said that parents had no ethical right to consent to nude photographs being taken of their children, as it could have psychological effects in later years.

Child protection activist Hetty Johnston told told Nine Network Television that the photographs amounted to the "sexual exploitation of children" and called for new laws against the use of photographs of naked children for exhibition, sale or publication.

"We need to put a line in the sand - because clearly some of those in the arts world can't do that - and say this is where you don't go, this is a no-go zone," she said.

The debate has provoked a strong debate in the Australian media. In an editorial entitled "Art stunt betrays our children", the Australian daily newspaper The Daily Telegraph said it saw the need to protect artistic expression but said some of the images of children published in Art Monthly Australia were "highly sexualised".

Sydney nude art inquiry dropped
06 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
Blanchett steps into nude art row
28 May 08 |  Entertainment
Country profile: Australia
09 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific