opinion

"I don't want to celebrate it." Today show reporter Brooke Boney's powerful message about Australia Day.

It’s almost a week out from January 26 and once again the debate is raging over whether it’s a problematic date to celebrate Australia Day.

Of course, currently, Australia Day marks the arrival of The First Fleet in 1788. Led by Captain Arthur Phillip, the fleet declared that the land they had ‘discovered’ belonged to no one. In turn, they dispossessed all Indigenous Australians.

On Thursday morning, Today show entertainment reporter Brooke Boney, who is herself Indigenous, added her voice to those who believe the date should be changed.

When asked about the issue by co-hosts Georgie Gardner, Deborah Knight and sports reporter Tony Jones, she spoke about how she personally sees the day.

Boney said despite feeling like she had “more reason than anyone else to love this country as much as I do,” as the daughter of a single mum with six kids who’s now on national television, she couldn’t celebrate Australia Day as it is now.

The proud Gamilaroi woman then pointed to some confronting statistics about Indigenous Australians.

“This is the best country in the world no doubt,” she said.

“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 beaten and raped than anyone else’s sisters or mum. And that started from that day.

“So for me, it’s a difficult day and I don’t want to celebrate it.”

Watch Brooke’s impassioned speech:

Video via Today show

However, she said on “any other day of the year” she’d enthusiastically celebrate the national holiday.

Jones questioned why the date made such a difference to Boney, who told him it’s because the First Fleet arriving was the “turning point” for indigenous Australians, “the beginning of, what some people would say is, the end”.

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She said celebrating the day on another date – such as the day of federation, 1 January – was going to be “more uniting”.

But Jones was still “upset” about the “us and them” division of the conversation, allowing Boney to explain exactly why there is a division between white Australians and Indigenous Australians.

“The statistics tell us that our lives are harder,” she said. “And that’s not me making it up or saying ‘woe is me’ or ‘feel sorry for me’ – but what I’m talking to are the statistics.”

As of June 2016, 2,346 Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islander people in every 100,000 were imprisoned, compared to 154 prisoners per 100,000 of the non-Indigenous population, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

That statistic translates to an Indigenous person being about 15 times more likely to be jailed than someone who is not Indigenous.

Meanwhile, in 2017, the overall attendance rate for Indigenous students nationally was 83.2 per cent, compared with 93 per cent for non-Indigenous students.

Recent data also shows that an 18-year-old Indigenous man is statistically more likely to end up in jail than at university.

In 2015, Indigenous women were 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than non-Indigenous women.

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