Brooke Boney – We Need to Talk
Just days into her new role as the entertainment reporter for Nine’s Today, Brooke Boney made headlines with her controversial comments surrounding Australia Day and what the date means to Indigenous people. The Beast caught up with Brooke at Bronte Surf Club…
How are you this morning, Brooke? I’m feeling pretty good. I’m just moving so, you know, I think there’s not a single person in the world who loves packing up their stuff.
Are you living in Bondi at the moment? Yeah, I’m in Bondi at the moment. I’m staying in the Eastern Suburbs. Why would I leave? This is God’s country.
What are your favourite things about the area? I love the lifestyle and I love how you can leave work, or leave the city, and feel like you are going on a little holiday. It doesn’t feel like it’s connected to Sydney. Being a country kid, that’s a pretty good feeling.
You grew up in Muswellbrook; how far is that from the coast? From Newcastle it’s probably two and a bit hours. It’s near Scone. Living here, you just really feel super grateful for it. You walk out and you’re like, “Oh, wow, this is where I live? This is amazing!”
It’s magic… Do you know where I really love? It’s a bit secret, but the secret’s out now, I love walking up to the golf course at North Bondi. If you walk through the golf course there’s a bunch of rocks on the other side that are on the cliffs and I love just going up there, getting a beer, fish and chips, or something. A hot tip if you’re a dude and you’re looking for a cool first date, that’s a good spot. My brother told me that there are some carvings up there somewhere. I’ve walked around a bit, but I can’t see them.
Does anything annoy you about the area? Look, sometimes you run into some dickheads. I think that for the most part we’re a pretty lovely bunch but sometimes there’s the odd person who’s a bit pretentious and I find that a bit hard to cop, sometimes.
You’re currently the entertainment reporter for Nine’s Today; what does an average day involve for you? Waking up at about four o’clock in the morning, getting to work at about five, going through hair and make up, researching all the topics of the day, pulling together the bulletin for the morning and then we’re on air from five-thirty, so my first E-news hit is not long after that. Then we’re off air at about nine o’clock. But there is always stuff to do, whether it’s doing an interview with a big celebrity who’s in town, a movie star, TV personality, musician or whatever. It could involve shooting a story with them, but then there is a lot of publicity involved with making TV as well. I may have to go do an interview or something like that for myself, like this.
Are you doing publicity every day? Not every day, but a lot. We do a lot, and I think that’s one of the pretty amazing things about being part of this show, is that people actually care about it. You know, people are really invested in Today.
You’ve just finished a two-year stint as Triple J’s breakfast newsreader before the Today gig; would you describe yourself as a morning person? No, the opposite really. I’m much more of a night owl than I am an early bird, but one thing that this routine has taught me is that the mornings are the best time of the day. I actually love it now, even on the weekends I’ll be up to see the sunrise and do a bit of meditation or go for a walk. A few years ago I would have been much more likely to be still out at sunrise than waking up at sunrise, so it’s nice. I’m definitely not a morning person, even though I’m finding myself loving the early mornings.
You are enjoying it? Yeah, I am enjoying it, it’s good. I’m very good at napping.
How have the ratings been since you got the gig at Today? Look, I try not to pay too much attention to the ratings because this is a long game. As long as I’m doing the best possible job I can do, rocking up to work every day with a really good attitude and a smile on my face, be nice to the people around you, that’s what matters most.
The ratings will come… They’ll come, and it’s a natural thing with any show that there’s ups and downs. When you’re building an audience, especially when you’ve got a new show like that with two female hosts and you’ve got the first Aboriginal person on breakfast TV, it’s a different audience that you’re after, it’s something new that you’re building and that takes time.
Focusing on short-term goals is never a good strategy… Yeah, you’re chasing your tail. I reckon that there’s a real risk if you start looking at the ratings minute by minute, or you start looking at every single thing that you’re doing, and I don’t want to adapt my personality to try to win the most viewers or to change who I am to try to fit in with that because I think people either like you or they don’t. There’s a real risk if you pay too much attention to that. Obviously we want to win, and we want to win back people after a rough couple of years, but someone else will let me know.
How’s the transition been from ABC, SBS, and NITV into mainstream Channel Nine? It’s really different. It’s really, really different. It’s a different sort of job I’m doing as well, but I feel like I’ve got… this is going to sound weird, but I feel like I’ve got a lot more freedom now than what I’ve ever had before, and it could be because, when you’re working at ABC or SBS, you’re always really aware of the fact that you’re government funded and so you’re kind of hamstrung by what you can and can’t say. So, for example, the stuff I talked about at the start of the year about the Australia Day stuff…
That was my next question… Yeah, well, good segue into it! I’m reading your mind. You know, for instance, I don’t think I would have felt as comfortable saying that stuff on ABC or SBS, because then you’re always scared that they could take your funding away or that you could be penalised for saying something the government doesn’t like. But on Nine, they’re just like, “You go for it, you be yourself, you do what you do,” and that was sort of where we ended up with that.
So, just days into your new gig on Today back in January, you found yourself in the centre of controversy with your comments on Australia Day: “I’m a Gamilaroi woman. My family is from northern New South Wales, been there for about sixty thousand years or so,” you calmly explained. “This date, I know it comes up every year, and I’m not trying to tell everyone else what they should be doing, but I can’t separate the 26th of January from the fact that my brothers are more likely to go to jail than they are to go to school, or that my little sisters and my mum are more likely to be beaten and raped than anyone else’s sisters or mum, and that started from that day.” Firstly, had you planned on saying that or did it just come to you in the moment? Well, the day before, we knew that the Pat Cash story was going to be played, so my boss Berlo called me and was like, “Hey, you know, we should get you involved in this segment. You want to have a yarn about it afterwards, what you think about the day or whatever?” I was like, “Okay, yeah, this is what I think about it, this is what I’ll say,” and he was like, “Yep, sounds good.” Then I just got on air and sort of went for it. It was completely off the cuff, it wasn’t scripted or anything, but it’s easier to come up with things like that, or to talk about that sort of stuff, when it’s what you believe. I’ve spoken about this stuff and thought about it very deeply for a very long time, so it wasn’t difficult for me to pull together a few sentences on what I thought about it, why I care about it.
When I say to people, “I think we should change the date, or at least have a discussion about it,” they often reply with, “Well, when would you have it?” If Australia Day were to change, what date would be preferable? Well, the natural day for me would be the day of federation, which is the first of January, and then just whack an extra public holiday on the end so you’re not losing any extra public holidays in the summer – you can sort of just stretch it out a bit. I think that would work well. You have to think about things like that. You don’t want to have a national day in winter when we are a sun-loving, outdoorsy people. We want to be able to get out there and celebrate it, so I reckon that fits pretty well, but then there might be people who are like, “Federation is when they excluded us from the constitution, so that’s just as bad,” or whatever.
I think that the brutality of the 26th is the thing that sticks out to me the most and that’s why I have that problem with it. Sitting here in Bronte Surf Club looking at the ocean, sometimes when I sit up there in Tamarama, up near Marks Park, I think about what it would have been like to see all those ships coming towards the bay, or about how different people’s lives would have been then compared to forty years later. Think about it, just living your life, spearfishing, having a great time swimming around with your mates, practising your culture and then, all of a sudden, your life is irrevocably changed and every one of your ancestors has a life that is more difficult than the people who are about to arrive on the boats, for no other reason than the colour of their skin. That’s what I think about when I think about the 26th of January.
Ideally, Australia Day would be a day where every single Australian can have an awesome celebration together. The thought of the people that were here before anyone else having a shit day on that day doesn’t really make it very inclusive… Yeah, well I think you want to celebrate this country, because we are just so lucky. You look outside and this is the middle of winter and people are walking around in t-shirts and shorts. It’s amazing, it’s just the best place in the world. It’s so safe; I could leave my handbag out there in the middle of that park and I guarantee you it’ll still be there in half and hour.
The grommets might have a little look through it though… You know what I mean, it’s such a safe place. It’s just beautiful and we should celebrate it, but I think you’re right, celebrating it on a day where more people are included is better.
If Australia was to become a republic, or if Indigenous Australians were to be recognised in the constitution, would the day that happens potentially be a good day to celebrate Australia Day? Yeah, absolutely, one hundred per cent. Something like that, where it sort of marks the birth of our nation, other than the day that black people were dispossessed, I reckon. I’m not that fussy, I’ll take any other day.
Did the trolling and negative comments get to you? Are you quite resilient and able to get over that, or did they hurt you? I think I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt, because every now and then you read something accidentally that sticks with you, or it sort of just gets under your skin a little. It’s like, even for the people who are the most resilient people in the world, even the biggest celebrities or the most practised at getting trolled, every now and then there’s still something that really hurts. One of the comments that I saw on Twitter said something really awful about my brothers and sisters and that was when I was sort of like, “This actually hurts.”
They must’ve been so proud of you when that all went down… They are, but they also are my little brothers and sisters, so they’re proud of me but don’t want me to get too carried away, you know. They’re the first people to let me know if my head was getting a bit big, or if I got a bit too big for my boots.
Your life has changed a lot since that day; was that one of the biggest days of your life? I think it probably would have been. It is probably the biggest moment of my professional life, one of the biggest moments of my life, I guess.
How has your life changed since that day? The funny thing is that you have these thoughts, and you have these feelings about certain things, right? Everyone does that, and you sort of just assume that people know how you feel about something and how you would react in a situation, and then it comes to the situation where you have to talk about it and you have to react in a certain way and, you know, you do what you’ve set out to do, and it seems pretty straightforward, but the way the people reacted since then, I just didn’t realise how… I knew it would get a reaction but I didn’t realise how big a reaction it would be.
It was a big reaction? It was a very big reaction. The thing that I have noticed the most is that people take me more seriously now, or sort of realise that I have a very serious and thoughtful inner monologue. You think that people can see that from how you interact with others or just by how you are, but they can’t, you know?
Maybe when you’re a pretty lady on TV people don’t expect you to have these well thought out opinions and maybe just think you’re the ‘entertainment girl’, sort of thing? I didn’t realise that people thought that until after. Then they were like, “Oh, you’re saying all these really thoughtful things,” and I’m like, “Well, yeah, I’ve always thought these things, this isn’t new for me. Hi, I’ve always been here. Hey!” But how else has my life changed? People take me a bit more seriously now and people sort of see that I’m a thoughtful person, and that’s a really nice upside.
Are some people scared of you? I don’t know, probably. They probably wouldn’t come near me. I’m probably more scared of them than they are of me, like spiders.
When you say you are a ‘Gamilaroi woman’, is Gamilaroi in northern New South Wales? So, if you’re driving from Sydney up through to somewhere in Queensland and you take the inland road you’ll go through places like Gunnedah and Tamworth, then you’ll get to Inverell and then Moree. From Tamworth, it’s just towards up near the border, near Boggabilla. It’s inland, west of Lismore. I think Lismore is Bundjalung.
Is there an Indigenous language in that area that is still in existence? Yeah, yeah I think there’s a dictionary.
Can you speak it? No, I can’t speak it.
It’s a tough ask… No, but I really want to. It’s on my bucket list of things to do. It’s so sad, firstly because people were forced to not speak their language – they were forced to speak in English because they were scared that if their kids spoke their own language then they would be taken away – so I feel very strongly about keeping it alive and learning it so I can teach my kids. You would normally learn it from your grandparents, then your parents teach you, or whatever. The first time I heard my grandmother speak any indigenous language was four years ago. She still remembers it, obviously, but she has just repressed it her whole life, which is pretty crazy.
I went to Uluru a couple of years ago and a lot of the Aboriginals there don’t even speak English. It felt like going to another country, as ridiculous as that sounds… Some people in the Northern Territory, especially the central desert mob, they’ll speak four or five other languages before English. English will be like their fifth language.
One of the things that I learned when I was in Canberra was that they do early childhood learning statistics and part of that is they get kids to read something – a basic skills test, or whatever – but for these kids English was their fourth or fifth language. At home they weren’t speaking that, they were speaking in a local language, so they would be like, “These kids are so dumb, they don’t even know how to string a sentence together.” No, they’re actually just not used to speaking in English. “How well does your four year-old speak French or Latin?!”
Was that for government statistics on literacy? Early childhood learning and that sort of stuff.
What’s it like being a Gamilaroi woman on morning TV when other people on morning TV like Prue MacSween have said things like, “There needs to be another stolen generation”? Are you in a position where you feel like you can have a voice among the sharks? Yeah, look, I don’t want to shit on anyone, everyone’s entitled to their view. Sometimes they are rooted in misinformation, sometimes they are just not exposed to Indigenous perspectives. I see Prue all the time, we’ve been on TV together before and she’s a really lovely person. I kind of wish we had this moment in our national discourse where people can disagree with each other without hating each other.
Politics has become like religion in a lot of ways… I know, it’s very divisive. People feel very righteous, like their view is the only and one true view of the world. I don’t feel like that about myself; I don’t feel like my view is the correct one, the one true view, or whatever. It is what it is, it’s my view, it’s my perspective on something and, as far as having a voice in an ocean of voices that have otherwise not been Indigenous, yeah that’s really important. It’s absolutely vital to democracy and having a good country to have different perspectives on breakfast TV, but also throughout the whole day on radio and podcasts, and on YouTube and stuff as well. If our kids grew up thinking that there was only one perspective and that was Prue’s or just mine, that’s a problem for me. Even if we had a show and it was five Brooke Boneys as the host, I feel like that would be an awful thing because people need to see themselves reflected. People need to see themselves reflected in the media and people need to be different. Not everyone can think or sound or look the same. It’s really important for us that there are different people involved in making TV and involved in shaping policy and involved in public discourse.
In the interest of independent objective journalism, was there any kind of context to her comment that might make it slightly less offensive? I think around that time maybe there’d been some sort of abuse scandal, but I can’t remember exactly when it was said.
So it was just a poor choice of words, rather than anything really evil… No, I think that she probably does think that. If I asked her tomorrow if she thought that, she would probably say, “Yeah, that’s what my view is,” but then I’ve not actually talked to her about it. If I did I would just say something along the lines of, that part of the reason that we’re in such a dire situation now with Indigenous outcomes being so much worse than non-Indigenous outcomes is because of the trauma related to dispossession, and not just of our land and culture but also about our parents and our right to feel safe in your own home and the right to… you know, access to our own community.
There’s a lot of science and a lot of solid, sound, critically thought-out knowledge around how children’s brains are affected by trauma. When we’re talking about being taken away from your family and being beaten and raped, not taught your culture and not being able to speak your language, that is some of the worst trauma you can imagine. There is a lot more research now about intergenerational trauma and how the things that happened to those kids affect us now. So, the way my brain responds in situations would be different to the way someone who hasn’t been in those situations would respond. We as a nation need to sort of figure out how we deal with the things that have happened in the past and part of it is acknowledging that these awful, horrible things happened in this country, even though we are not personally responsible for them, just acknowledging that they happened, and also acknowledging that they have a lasting impact beyond the events themselves.
I suppose every white person in Australia now is in some way better off as a result of things that were stolen from Indigenous people over the last two hundred years, but I don’t think many people would be comfortable with that notion… I think it’s a very difficult thing to acknowledge that your good fortune has come at the cost of someone else’s life or good fortune, and I think that’s probably why we have so much trouble talking about it, because nobody wants to admit it. Say, for instance, if your grandfather went and took that house there on the edge of that cliff over there and said, you know, “This is my house now,” and everyone who was living in that house was kicked out, left homeless and poor. Not only that, the children were allowed to come back in, but they would be beaten and they wouldn’t be allowed to speak in their native tongue, and they wouldn’t be allowed to work and get paid for it – they’d have to work as slaves. For you to admit that you were benefiting from that, I think would be really hard, and I understand that. I know that would be a difficult thing but, you know, I guess the way we move forward is by continuing to have conversations about it.
Are you ever going to get people to acknowledge that? I think some people will always have the view that they have now. It’s not my job to go around educating every single person who thinks differently, or who has extreme views one way or the other. It’s my job to share a perspective that’s different from the one that’s been shared in the past and hope that people feel more compassion and love towards Aboriginal people and, you know, for there to be more of a respect and understanding between different people.
You were the eldest of six kids brought up by your single mum in housing commission in Muswellbrook; how did you go from those humble beginnings to get to where you are today? It was pretty hard work. It’s been a big thirty two years, I really don’t know.
I don’t have to ask you how old you are now… No. You know, it’s not just me though. Even though I’ve worked really hard and given up a lot, and been away from my family for a long time, the only reason why I’ve been able to do this is because my mum worked so hard, and because her parents worked so hard, and their parents worked so hard. I’d love to be able to think that I got here all on my own but the truth is that I don’t think anyone, especially me, would be able to get to this position without a lot of help.
I know that I’ve worked hard and I don’t want to take the piss out of that. I deserve the things I have worked for but there’s no way I would’ve been able to get to this position or this level of success if it wasn’t for the fact that my grandparents worked really hard. My grandfather slaved his guts away in a coal mine for fifty, sixty years in order for me to be able to get here. A lot of people have helped me along the way in my career, and people have given me chances when maybe I wasn’t quite ready for them, people who’ve propped me up and that sort of stuff. I feel very lucky to have been put in the positions where I have been able to prove myself. I think that’s sort of how it’s gone.
And you’ve taken advantage of your opportunities? Yeah, well that’s the thing, you have to be ready for it every time, every opportunity that comes your way. You can’t be ill-prepared or undercooked when it comes to media because I think you get found out pretty quickly.
Can I ask about your dad? Yeah, if you want to. So, my mum and my dad were together for a little while maybe just after I was born or just before I was born. I didn’t grow up with my dad. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything because I had such strong male role models around me.
Your grandparents were a big part of your life? My grandfather, my uncles, even my little brothers. They’re just such beautiful men that I didn’t ever feel like, “Oh, where’s my dad?” or, “Oh no, I wish I had a dad around,” because I had very good role models and I was very loved.
You didn’t feel like you were missing out on anything when you were growing up? No, even when we used to have Father’s Day stuff. We were talking about this on air a couple of weeks ago; some school was talking about banning Mother’s Day because it might upset kids who don’t have a mum, and I was like, “I didn’t have a dad and I can’t remember feeling that upset during Father’s Day.” We used to just buy Pop a box of chocolates or golf balls, or socks or something.
Hankies… Hankies and socks is always a good one. My mum is very strong as well and she sort of embodied both. She is very strong and forthright.
What did she do for work? When I was in school she used to do waitressing, then she was a cleaner, and then more recently she has worked in education, like a teaching assistant.
And she brought up six of you? Yeah, so there’s five of us kids in the family – blood brothers and sisters – and she fostered a kid as well, my brother.
I know this amazing lady in Leeton who fostered hundreds of kids. Her husband used to fix our Commodore 64 joysticks after we blew up and threw them at the wall… Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. I take my hat off to people who are that generous. I don’t know how she did it.
I don’t even know how people look after one kid… Man, I can barely look after myself alone.
Do you think that the equality of opportunity that existed back then is being eroded away now? It’s getting harder to overcome that sort of intergenerational poverty; that intergenerational unemployment and welfare dependence. I remember a couple of years ago having this moment when we were in a meeting – I think it was for Hack or something – and we were talking about a bunch of information that came out from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare around exactly that, and it really hit me then, at that moment, how difficult it is to overcome those sorts of circumstances. Anecdotally, from what I know, I look around at the kids we grew up with when I go home and I would say a lot of them have lives that are pretty difficult at times, certainly not as easy as what my life is now compared to what it has been in the past.
As an Indigenous woman, did you face challenges you wouldn’t have faced if you weren’t indigenous? Were you conscious of that when you were growing up? Yeah, absolutely. I was especially conscious of it because the town we grew up in was mostly white people, mostly non-Indigenous people. I think when my family got there that there might have been one or two Aboriginal families. It was pretty clear who the black people are and who the black people aren’t. In Sydney there are a lot of people and it’s very diverse, people look different and it’s kind of easy to blend in and switch a little bit more between identities or whatever, but when you are in a town and your last name is Boney, and everyone knows you’re a family of Boneys, you’re a black person and people treat you like that.
How far back can you trace the Indigenous side of your family? All the way back. I guess there’s only a certain point where there’s records and stuff, right? But if you look back towards colonisation and stuff – those first thirty years – we know where our family was at the time when the colonisers came to Australia. There’s a few key figures who were the heads of certain tribes and there is this one particular guy called King Boney who pops up in a lot of texts, a lot around Richmond, so I think he abandoned part of his group and came down. But then the part where my family is from in Ashford, called Dead Bird Mission, that is the part of the town where they were condemned to, they would have been there for ages. All of the stories around there, that’s where my pop knows all of his knowledge and culture from, so he would have learned all around there.
They probably have some sort of claim over that land of being traditional custodians of the knowledge and stuff from there, but apparently last time I was home… so you have your country area, but then there’s like different migratory paths around there, and my brother was telling me that there was another big group or big population where they think that my family spent a lot of time as well, which is around Kingstown, around Inverell. So the two sides of my family are the Boneys and the McGradys, and they go way back.
You’ve got a background in political journalism; how do you feel about the state of politics in Australia? It saddens me when I see people who are disengaged from politics because I think that we elect the governments we deserve. If you’re of the opinion that they’re all useless and they’re down there wasting our time and money, then vote them out. You have the power to do that, this isn’t a dictatorship; you get the government you deserve. People need to be more engaged. This is the thing I always get frustrated by: when people aren’t engaged in the political process but they want to have a massive cry about where we’re at.
The fact that the scare tactics work so well just shows how uninformed people are… I think that’s the thing I get really upset about, when people are manipulated using fear. That really saddens me when things like that happen. I saw quite a bit of that when I was in Canberra. Because it’s difficult to inspire people to be kind and open and compassionate when it comes to designing policy, and I’m not talking about one area in particular, it’s really easy to motivate people to be scared and to close themselves off and to be independently motivated. I wish there were more inspiring characters.
Are we going to see you in politics at any stage or is it a bit early to call? I don’t think politics is for me. Having been down there and worked around politicians, I think it’s really hard for people. People can be very idealistic and have a lot of personal goals and really strong values but it’s difficult to maintain those when you are entering into a system. You’ve seen that with politicians before, you think, “Oh they’re going to go in there and shake things up or change things,” and then they get in there and they’re just sort of sitting on the bench not doing much. It’s really, really hard when it’s a party environment. Is it for me? I don’t know. Will I ever do it? Probably not.
What do you think is the best way forward for reconciliation? There’s a whole bunch of stuff. One of the things that came out of the Uluru Statement from the Heart is around truth telling, and that’s something that I keep coming back to. I feel a bit like a broken record but I think that, moving forward, the best way for people to reconcile with different views people have is to have a better understanding of the past, and that there’s a really, really important process that we need to go through. We’ve seen in other countries, after Apartheid for instance, South Africa had their truth and healing commission. I think that those sorts of things, even though they are very structured and very formal, are very important exercises in the progress of a nation, and if we had something like that in Australia that would greatly benefit us. It’s pretty common that I’ll recount or tell a story about the brutality of colonisation and the effect it had on the population at the time, and people would be shocked to hear of it, and I think that’s important for us to know about. If I’ve come across that many people who are hearing it for the first time, then there are a whole bunch more people who have never ever heard it and probably never ever will in their whole life. Something that I think is so important is the difference in outcomes that I was talking about before. When you attribute those only to race, it’s racism, so we need to know what the reasons are behind that, otherwise we’re in a country where we think one group of people is better than another and I’m not okay with that.
Do you think a lot of people just don’t know? I didn’t know anything until I read First Australians… It’s very good, have you watched the TV series?
I haven’t, but should something like that be compulsory reading, part of the curriculum? I think it absolutely should be. When you’re talking about the definition of reconciliation being one group of people understanding another group of people and coming to some sort of consensus around general ideas, what better way to initiate reconciliation than to understand this country’s past? And for it not to be some sort of history wars thing where it’s like, “Oh, we did this,” but, “Oh, but you did this and then this happened,” but just to understand plainly what happened in the first fifty years of this country’s settlement is huge and I think it would change things dramatically. I think that would be a great idea.
We’re the only commonwealth country that doesn’t have a treaty with our first nations; could something like that work in Australia? A treaty is when a country comes to another country and they say, “We’re going to settle this country but we’re going to look at you in terms of schooling, health and, you know, well make sure you’re trained up to be farmers, or whatever.” So, that used to be how treaties were sorted out. The problem with a treaty now in Australia, and I’m by no means a legal expert, is that it’s so complex and there are so many different nations. Who would the government or the Queen negotiate a treaty with at this stage? We don’t have a representative body that would, say, gather the view of every Aboriginal person and then represent it to the Queen and be like, “Okay, well this is the standard we’re willing to accept.” In New Zealand, when they negotiated their treaty it was around the time of settlement, which was a lot easier, but also there were only seven big language groups, or seven sort of larger tribe areas, so it’s much easier to negotiate with that than it is to negotiate with Australia, which is just a huge continent with a huge number of language groups, and with really vastly different cultures and understandings of the world. That makes it very, very difficult.
There are people who are far better equipped to answer questions like that than I am, but there are some ideas around that you could establish a representative body and negotiate a treaty between the government and those people, but there are other people who think that constitutional recognition would far better serve Indigenous people in terms of outcomes. I think treaties have symbolically been very important for Aboriginal people, because it’s this word that symbolises the struggle more broadly for such a long time.
Ken Wyatt made an interesting statement last month. He doesn’t want to rush the constitutional recognition because if it doesn’t get through it’ll be set back another generation, like the republican referendum was; do you worry that the constitutional recognition could be used as a diversion to avoid any meaningful change? Is that what Ken Wyatt was implying in his statement? I think that change takes time. I think that he was probably trying to appease some of his colleagues who maybe were a bit worried about that sort of stuff. He wouldn’t want to be the first black fellow to hold the portfolio and be like, “All right, we’re going to do treaty, and we’re going to do constitutional recognition within the first year.” Of course he isn’t going to do anything like that, but I think that real and meaningful progress, where everyone is in agreeance and everyone is on the same page, takes time. I don’t think we should rush those things. I think it should be a thoughtful thing where we bring everyone along with us and we’re all on the same page, or thereabouts, and we move forward that way, because if we went to vote tomorrow on that sort of change it would get voted down and you would have to walk down the street and look at people knowing they don’t want to include me or my people in any meaningful way in the constitution. That would be a hard thing for us and I think it probably would set us back a little way. But if you think about the 1967 referendum, I think they took maybe twelve years of campaigning to get to the ‘yes’ vote and that ‘yes’ vote was the most successful ‘yes’ vote in the country’s history. I think 91.65 per cent of people voted ‘yes’. That means people like my grandparents could walk down the street and know that nine out of ten people voted ‘yes’.
What advice do you have for young journos keen to follow in your footsteps? You have to work your arse off. Don’t be offended when people ask you to work really hard for them for not very much, because we all start off that way. There are some times when people are like, “Can you believe they’re offering unpaid internships?” and I’m like, “Yeah, I can believe it, because it’s work.” That’s how the cookie crumbles. It’s an industry where the audience is fragmenting and there’s not a great deal of money, so be prepared to work long hours and be engaged in the content. But, you know, it’s such a rewarding job; you get to travel, you get to talk to interesting people all the time, you get to have cool experiences. Sometimes I see people who are chained to a desk or something for twelve hours a day and I just think, “Oh my God, that would not suit my personality at all.” If you’re the kind of person that can’t sit still for ten minutes, definitely get into journalism because it’d suit you I reckon.
Can you please explain what the Uluru Statement from the Heart is? There were a whole bunch of people from all around Australia who were considered representatives of the community and they wanted to engage with the government in a really meaningful way and they wanted to be heard, so they decided on a couple of different things. One was a Makarrata, which is like a treaty – a truth and healing process – which is that truth telling stuff I was talking to you about earlier, similar to what happened after Apartheid. Some other policies as well, one of which is the representative body that sits kind of next to the parliament. Basically, it is Indigenous people saying to the government what they think will progress Indigenous affairs in the country. Those sort of things are the main parts of it.
In an ideal world, what does the future hold for Brooke Boney? For me? Oh my God…
This is about you after all… Keep living in the Eastern Suburbs, I reckon. I don’t know, I just want to be healthy and happy, and have a fulfilling career – a job that I get a lot of satisfaction from – and have people around me who care about me ●