Brooke Boney isn’t one to shy away from uncomfortable conversations. In her first week as Today’s entertainment reporter, back in January 2019, Brooke was part of an agonising Change the Date debate with her co-hosts that soon went viral.
While many applauded her eloquent and insightful perspective on Australia Day as a Gamilaroi woman, there were just as many viewers that questioned her stance not to celebrate it, vilifying her and her family online.
It was a “really, really difficult time,” she says, and one that could’ve easily made her go to ground and keep a low profile, but that’s not Brooke’s style. And never has been.
Growing up in Muswellbrook, NSW, the eldest of six children to a single mum, she’s experienced more prejudice than many of us will ever fully know or understand. She’s also climbed the career ladder fast and forthrightly using her position of power – she was the only Indigenous reporter to cover the 2013 federal election, while still at uni, and then went on to hold roles at NITV and Triple J before Today – to add an important voice to Australia’s media landscape. A voice that exposes the racism Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer, and highlights the changes that need to be made in order for future generations to live a better and easier life.
Hit play on the video above to hear what Brooke Boney has to say about racism, our role in change and our responsibility to the next generation, and read her interview below.
Why do you think the Change the Date segment caused such controversy?
“There was a huge reaction, a reaction that I really didn’t expect. I think that it came because a lot of the people who watched the clip hadn’t heard a perspective like that before.”
“I feel like I have almost more reason than anyone else to love this country as much as I do,” Brooke said in her impassioned Today show speech, which has since garnered over 350,000 Google searches.
What did the intense scrutiny that followed teach you?
“My biggest learning from that moment was that to push things forward, you have to be uncomfortable. It takes a little bit of discomfort. But, if you believe what you’re saying is right and you’re pushing for a better future for everyone, then it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Also, if you’re pushing forward in a direction that means more equality for more people, then that’s the best you can do.”
Were you surprised by your resilience in that moment?
“It taught me that I can handle a little bit of discomfort if it means that the community is going to benefit from that and, in fact, it’s sort of my duty in the job that I have to do that.”
“If every generation could just make it that bit easier, then that’s a noble goal.”
Why do you think talking about racism is so uncomfortable?
“Because it forces people to acknowledge that their good fortune comes at the expense of another group of people who have been oppressed. It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that most Australians have benefited from the oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I think the sooner we have conversations acknowledging that imbalance, the sooner we’ll all be able to move forward.”
Brooke with her beloved grandparents, who helped instill a pay-it-forward mentality from a young age. Brooke has spoken candidly about the racism they have endured – not being able to head into town until it was dark, police brutality at the local footy club and living in fear their children would be taken – in order to highlight the inequality and injustice within Australia.
What’s your hope for future generations?
I hope that their lives are a little bit easier than my life was or that our lives are now – that young women and men who came after me don’t have to go through the same struggles I’ve had to in order to be considered equal, in the same way that I haven’t had to endure the same things that my grandparents did. I think that if every generation could just make it that bit easier, then that’s a noble goal. And that’s something we can all push for every day.
What would you say to those people who feel it is not their responsibility to drive change in this country?
I think if you’re not living your life trying to take advantage of this moment in history and push forward in a direction that makes life better for more people, then it’s a wasted opportunity.
We can’t say fairer than that.
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