"My mum is a superstar." Everything we know about Tony Armstrong.

Last year, television presenter Tony Armstrong spoke a simple truth about Australia. It was a truth so apparently uncomfortable that it made news headlines and ignited comments sections for days afterwards.

Tony was on Network 10's panel show The Project, when he weighed in on Incarceration Nation, a NITV documentary about the overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in the prison system.

"This country still can't accept it's a racist country. You still can't accept it's built off the back of slavery, it's built off the back of dispossession, it's built off the back of rape and pillage of Indigenous people," he said.

"And we've just got to be better."

The clip went viral. It's not the first time the Barranbinya man's words have cut through, and it won't be the last.

Watch: Tony Armstrong confronts racism in Australia. Post continues below.

Video via Channel 10

Though the former AFL player is still coming to grips with his surging public profile as the new sports presenter on ABC News Breakfast, he's seizing the opportunity.

But it hasn't always come easily to him.

Tony was raised off country in Western Sydney by his white mother (his father left before he was born) and was one of just three Indigenous children at his boarding school in Victoria.

"You put up all these defence mechanisms without even realising it. Every room you walk into, you're basically the only Blackfella. Everywhere you go, you're always a point of difference," he told Mamamia's No Filter podcast.

"I used to get pretty nervous, because kids are ruthless. They'll just come out and ask questions. And when I was younger, I didn't know sh*t about [culture], really... So I got bloody good at ripping yarns, because when you're a kid, you want to come across as knowing who you are."


As he's gotten older, he's not only learned more about culture and about race, but embraced that learning process. 

"I'm lucky now to be really comfortable in who I am," he said.

His football career was integral to that. Tony played 35 games in six years for Adelaide, the Sydney Swans, and the Collingwood Magpies, clubs that boasted legendary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players.

"That was great for me, because I got to be surrounded by culture from the age of 18," he said. 

"And I've had some titans of the game who have become friends of mine, and have helped me along my journey, which I'm still absolutely on. And I will always be on."

Sport was also a way for Tony to make friends, recently saying in an interview: "I'm an only child. I loved how team sports can bring you a sense of collegiality. You join a sports team. Straight away you've got 22 friends."

In fact, while Tony has never met his father and is not interested in pursuing a relationship with him, he now feels ready to visit his country, meet his mob, to immerse himself in the culture that runs through his veins. He had plans to do so before the COVID-19 pandemic siloed Australian cities.


"I just want to go to where I'm from, really get in touch with one side of my heritage - and probably the side that I identify with the most because I walk around with it," he said to Mamamia.

He is, sadly, well acquainted with the prejudice he's made to endure as a result; the ignorance, the tokenism, the racism - both systemic and explicit.

Tony played in the AFL between 2010 and 2015. Image: Getty. Once, while jogging in Princes Park, Melbourne, he noticed two young teenagers watching him. As he approached, he knew they were going to say something. He could feel it coming.

"They said, 'Run faster! The cops are chasing you!' 

"And I'm like, f**king hell, man. It really took the wind out of my sails because they knew exactly what that meant. 

"I was just like, what do I do? Do I stop to blow up at them? Of course not. Because everyone's just going to think I'm a bully. 

"That one really rocked me... I was just like the arrogance, the entitlement. And then also, what are they around? What is in their sphere, what language are they hearing at home or in the schoolyard for that to come out? It sucks."

Listen to more of Tony Armstrong's story, including his strong relationship with his mother and how his soaring public profile is impacting his dating life, on No Filter.


It's incidents like that, and many others far more insidious, that have encouraged him to use his platform like he does.

But as he's said many times, he longs for the day where he and other Indigenous people in the public eye don't have to bear the burden of educating Australians about persistent discrimination and disadvantage, where those simple, uncomfortable truths generate action rather than headlines and debate.

Tony is relatively new to the world of TV presenting. 

While still playing AFL, he was asked to provide some comments for the National Indigenous Radio Service - a government-funded satellite program sent to Indigenous radio stations across the country. 

And from that moment Tony realised he "seemed to have a bit of a knack for it". 

He became the first Indigenous person to call an AFL game on commercial radio in 2019. In early 2020, he began filling in for sports presenter Paul Kennedy on the ABC's News Breakfast show. Then in 2021, he was given the full-time role, which he has made his own. And this year, he hosted his own show on ABC called A Dog's World. He also has a panellist role on The Project from time to time too.


And at the 2022 Logies this week, Tony won the TV Week Logie Award for most popular new talent. He also took to the stage with tennis player Dylan Alcott, the pair presenting an award together for the most outstanding sports coverage. 

Armstrong was the first and only host during the ceremony to give an acknowledgement of Country. And when some ignorant Twitter trolls had a go at him for his acknowledgement of Country, he rightly fought back.

In his speech, Tony said: "There is a lot of people I need to thank end. The old cheese, my mum, she is a superstar, has done everything for me and has been a superstar and I would not be up here without her so a big thanks to her and please give her a clap, she will love it back home."


And the response was overwhelmingly.

As ABC News Breakfast co-host Michael Rowland wrote on Twitter: "I absolutely love sharing the desk with you. You have brought so much to our show, you have brought so much to the ABC, and quite frankly you have brought so much to Australian TV more broadly."

In his speech, Tony also thanked the National Indigenous Radio Service, saying: "If I hadn't started calling AFL football, I wouldn't have ended up here at the ABC."

Reflecting on the award-win on News Breakfast, Tony said: "I'm pretty overwhelmed. Clearly a lot of people voted, so it's a really nice feeling. I feel warm and fuzzy. Thank you so much for all the support you gave me along the way. It hasn't really sunk in yet."

This post was originally published on August 28, 2021 and was updated on June 20 2022.

Feature Image: Getty/ Instagram @tonaaayy.

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