Boney spoke as part of a panel of prominent indigenous Australians on a special NAIDOC edition of the SBS program Insight, detailing her rise through the ranks of journalism to a coveted role as Today’s entertainment reporter this year.
She explained she initially pursued journalism because of a “really big trauma” in her family.
“It really made me question who I was, and … why so many things kept happening to my family, and why my life seemed so much harder than the people around me,” she said.
Those words echoed the impassioned speech she delivered during one of her first episodes of Today at the start of 2019 in which she called for the date of Australia Day to be changed out of respect for Australia’s indigenous community.
“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. And that started from that day,” she said at the time — words that ignited a firestorm of public debate.
Reflecting about the time on Insight last night, Boney said the reaction had been “a bloody big one”.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be as big or as severe as what it was. I knew there’s a big part of our country who haven’t heard different perspectives on big questions of our national identity before … that was a big part of the reason I wanted to go work at Channel 9. But I didn’t understand how new the concept would be to so many people. I’d been working at Triple J, ABC, NITV, SBS — those sorts of views aren’t uncommon,” she said.
“There were people saying really awful things about me, about my family — it’s really hard when people say threats. I was going to say I don’t care when people say mean things about me, but I do. Please DON’T say mean things about me,” she said with a laugh.
“But it hurts more when people say awful things about your brothers and sisters or your mum. But then you get all this support from people who love and care about you — and also from strangers. It’s the most amazing thing — you realise you’ve said something that’s hit a nerve.”
Boney said she was “really uncomfortable” with the idea of being a role model but said she also pursued her career knowing that “young Koori girls” could see someone in her who “looks like them, talks like them, has the same last name as them — if you can see it, you can do it.”
Boney is a proud Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman but reveals she did not have much of a sense of her cultural identity or history growing up.
“Nan and Pop protected us — or they thought they were protecting us — from the dangers of practising culture. They left missions because they were worried their kids would be taken away from them,” she said.
Embracing her indigenous culture came later — and is now an integral part of who she is.
“There are so many parts of me that are made up of the best parts of Aboriginal culture. There’s no way I’d be in the position I am now without remembering all those strong black women who came before me,” she said.
Boney finished with words delivered direct to the program’s studio audience, made up of young indigenous Australians: “Just because you’re born into a situation, it doesn’t mean that you have to stay there. Just because people don’t think that you’re very smart or that you’re very special or that you have a right to be heard … that does not mean that you have to live in that idea of yourself. The amazing thing about this country is that if you work hard — and it is hard, I’m not going to lie, it’s really tough — you can overcome that,” she said.
“It warms my heart to know that whatever Blackfellas want to be, they can be it, in this day and age.”
In a post to Instagram promoting the episode, Boney wrote she had been “overcome with emotion” hearing the stories of her fellow panellists: “A bit of sadness, a bit of feeling like the world is an unfair place and a lot of pride,” she wrote.