Former triple j newsreader Brooke Boney has been the Today show’s entertainment reporter for all of a week, and already the impact of having an Indigenous host on Channel 9’s flagship morning program is being felt.
For once, a conversation about Australia Day on a breakfast TV show included an Indigenous voice, and not just as a special guest. Host Deborah Knight was able to simply turn to her right and ask Boney to talk about what January 26 means to her as a Gamilaroi woman.
“I can’t separate the 26th of January from the fact that that my brothers are more likely to go to jail than they are to go to school, or that my little sisters or my mum are more likely to be beaten and raped than anyone else’s sisters or mum, and that started from that day,” Boney explained.
“So for me it’s a difficult day and I don’t want to celebrate it. Any other day of the year I’ll tie an Australian flag around my neck and I’ll run through the streets with anyone else.”
“That’s the day that it changed for us. That’s the beginning of what some people would say is the end. That’s the turning point.”
“But why does it have to be us vs them?” asked sports reporter Tony Jones (not the Q&A guy). To which Boney pointed out that the divide between Indigenous communities and non-Indigenous Australians is not a rhetorical position being taken on to try and win an argument – it’s a measurable reality.
“The statistics tell us that our lives are harder,” she said simply. “And that’s not me making it up or saying ‘woe is me’ or saying ‘feel sorry for me’.”
“A day that suits more people is going to be more uniting.”
“I wish it wasn’t [us vs them].”
It’s as simple as that: we currently celebrate Australia, officially, on a date that marks colonisation as the beginning of Australia, and that means something specific to the country’s First Nations people.
Insisting on this date does not celebrate a meeting of two cultures that created what we now know as Australia – it celebrates the beginning of a brutal and systematic attempt to wipe out the culture that existed here before January 1788. It erases that culture, and compounds the suffering Indigenous people have endured since then.
Of course, reconciliation is not as simple as changing the date – but it would be a symbolic move showing that Australia’s actually ready to reckon with our own history.
Boney’s take is yet another simple expression of how it feels when white Australia tells Indigenous people to stop complaining and smile through the pain.
And while it might not win over any of the bright sparks jumping on Today’s social media to tell her exactly that, it’s a meaningful bit of progress to have her speaking her truth to that audience.