A former newsreader for ABC’s Triple J, and a proud Indigenous woman, Boney bravely raised the debate around Australia Day this morning saying she couldn’t reconcile celebrating on January 26th when the day marks a traumatic experience for many of Australia’s first people.
“I’m a Gamilaroi woman, my family is from northern NSW, been there for about 60,000 years or so,” she openly explained to viewers.
“This date, I know it comes up every year and I’m not trying to tell everyone else what they should be doing or how they should be celebrating, but I think I have almost more reason than anyone else to love this country,” she said citing her new role.
“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,” she said.
“And that started from that day. So for me, that’s a difficult day and I don’t want to celebrate it… That’s the day it changed for us. That’s the beginning of what some people would say is the end. That’s the turning point.”
She then suggested that our national day be moved to a different date; “a day that suits more people is probably going to be more uniting,” she said.
Boney’s very personal and informed perspective is a welcome change from some of the fear mongering we’ve seen from certain breakfast TV identities.
Last year, Channel 7’s Sunrise was swept up in a storm of bitterness after hosting a segment featuring commentators speaking out about Indigenous child protection.
The segment (which included exactly zero input from Indigenous people) discussed a newspaper article headed ‘Save our Kids,’ quoting assistant minister for children & families David Gillespie as saying that “white” families were required to care for at-risk Aboriginal children.
“Don’t worry about the people who decry and handwring and say, this will be another Stolen Generation”, said Prue MacSween during the segment. “Just like the first Stolen Generation, where a lot of children were taken because it was for their wellbeing, we need to do it again, perhaps.”
To this day, hundreds of Aboriginal people who were stolen as children are yet to find their families. The policy caused mass displacement, and endemic torment. Such views spouted carelessly to a mass audience is hard to forgive.
Brooke Boney by comparison was measured in her objection of January 26th. She took the time to articulately explain her position sans baseless denigrations.
The statistics quoted by Boney about Indigenous incarceration, rape and violence are all true. Indigenous Australians constitute over a quarter (27%) of the national prison population, but comprise just 3% of the Australian population.
While Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander women are grossly more likely to experience violence at the hands of their partners–according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 7 Indigenous women fall victim each year.
As Boney expressed, these statistics prove how far Australia has to go in its healing process. Changing the date of Australia Day– which is construed by numerous Indigenous people as a day of mourning and deep trauma– could be one pretty easy, but incredibly powerful first step.
Surely that’s something worth considering.