Bleats

Brooke Boney Explaining Why She Can't Celebrate Australia Day On January 26 Shows Why We Need More Indigenous Voices On TV

"That’s the day that it changed for us."

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.

The Prime Minister With Photoshopped Sneakers Is Now Giving New Australians Fashion Advice

An important part of becoming an Aussie is, apparently, saying no to thongs.

As we inch closer to Australia Day and the federal election, certain stripes of politician are trying to notch up political points for the latter by arguing about the former.

The latest move from the government is an announcement today about citizenship ceremonies.

Immigration Minister David Coleman and Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that changes will be brought in from next year that will force councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26, and January 26 only.

(Sidebar: remember when it used to be “most successful multicultural country”?)

Cementing January 26 as a national day of celebration has faced opposition from Indigenous communities and their allies, who consider the anniversary of British colonisation to be a day of mourning and solidarity, with even louder support for a date change growing in recent years.

Councils are currently allowed to hold citizenship ceremonies on the 25th, 26th or 27th of January, and some councils have moved their celebrations welcoming new citizens to one of the days either side of Australia Day.

Sometimes it’s out of respect for the fact that it’s been marked a Day Of Mourning for decades longer than it’s been a cheeky day off for beers and BBQs, and sometimes it’s just because it’s going to be hot as balls on the 26th and nobody should have to plant a symbolic little tree in that kind of heat.

This has so enraged the government that they’ve actually revoked some of those councils’ authority to conduct the ceremonies – two Melbourne councils had their powers axed last year by the then-Turnbull government.

But possibly the weirdest part of this is the accompanying rule that the ceremonies will now involve a dress code.

Specifically, no board shorts, and no thongs.

By all means put on the boardies and thongs for the BBQ afterwards, but for the official ceremony, it’s the right thing to do to show respect in how you dress,” Morrison said.

Genius, Scott! That’s what will get the regular Aussie voter on board! They’ve been enraged – enraged! – by the prospect of all these soon-to-be-citizens rocking up to council chambers and local parks to take the citizenship pledge in their Billabong boardies and double pluggers.

Presumably, the extremely Aussie traditional dress of branded baseball caps and dirty old kicks will still be allowed.

There is no word on whether the government will force councils to poorly photoshop cheap white sneakers onto any new Australians who don’t follow the dress code.

The changes are supposed to help “protect and respect” the current date of Australia Day, and to prevent councils “playing politics with Australia Day”.

Because putting extra rules in place to ban local councils from representing the wishes of their constituents with regard to a highly sensitive political and cultural issue, just a few months out from an election, isn’t “playing politics” at all.

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