Today’s new entertainment reporter Brooke Boney injected some life into Nine’s flailing new-look breakfast show on Thursday with an impassioned, personal plea to change the date of Australia Day.
It sparked a debate with co-star Tony Jones in a segment that went viral, drawing over 36,000 viewers in its first five hours after airing.
“I can’t separate 26 January from the fact that my brothers are more likely to go to jail than school, or that my little sisters and my mum are more likely to be beaten or raped than anyone else’s sisters or mum,” said Boney.
“And that started from that day.”
Commercial breakfast TV’s first Indigenous star fired up on just her fourth day on Today.
The discussion was ignited by former tennis star Pat Cash (who Jones said “doesn’t live full time in Australia”) saying he’s embarrassed by living conditions in Indigenous communities.
“I’m part of that community. I’m a Gamilaroi woman, my family’s from northern NSW, been there for about 60,000 years or so,” said Boney, who often uses the Gamilaroi greeting “Yaama” on air.
“I’m not trying to tell anyone else what they should do or how they should be celebrating,” said Boney, 31, the eldest of six children raised by a single mother.
But January 26, which marks the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, “is a difficult day and I don’t want to celebrate it,” she said.
“Any other day of the year I will tie an Australian flag around my neck and run through the streets.”
please watch before you @ me. Love you guys ❤️ https://t.co/ZluD2pvBEG
— Brooke Boney (@boneybrooke) January 16, 2019
Jones, 57, asked Boney why a change of date would make a difference.
“Because that’s the first day; that’s the day that it changed for us. That’s sort of the beginning of what some people would say is ‘the end’. That’s the turning point,” he said.
After initially demurring when Knight asked for her own solution, Boney suggested changing the date for a national celebration to January 1, the anniversary of Federation.
“I think a day that suits more people is probably going to be more uniting,” Boney said.
Saying he gets “upset about it in a lot of ways”, Jones countered Boney’s suggestion, saying the debate shouldn’t be “us-versus-them” and saying “we do see white Australians” living in “third world” conditions.
“TJ, you know what, the statistics tell us that our lives are harder,” Boney clapped back.
“It’s not me making it up or saying ‘woe is me’ or ‘feel sorry for me’.
After the segment sparked mixed response on social media – one viewer said the network has “officially gone far left” another that it was driving “minority views” – Boney wrote a second tweet.
— Brooke Boney (@boneybrooke) January 17, 2019
Fellow journalists Ellen Fanning and Conor Duffy were among those supporting her:
In 2015, the ABC fact checked a claim by opposition leader Bill Shorten that “A young Aboriginal man of 18 in Australia is more likely to end up in jail than university”.
The most recent data available at the time showed a greater proportion of Indigenous men had been to jail in the five years to 2008 than had a Bachelor degree or above in 2011.
A greater proportion were in jail than at university in 2014.
As to Boney’s claims about rape and beatings, a current report on the Centres Against Sexual Assault website says “Indigenous women are over represented as victims of interpersonal violence.”
A 2004 national survey of 6677 women suggested sexual violence against Indigenous women was three times more common than against non-Indigenous women.