Brooke Boney, a Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman, didn’t necessarily imagine she’d be sitting in Parliament as a political reporter before she’d even graduated university. Not to mention shadowing Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on the 2013 campaign trail soon after. But for the forthright and funny Triple J Breakfast news presenter, jumping into the deep end—and thriving there—has been a hallmark of her extraordinary career to date. Here, she shares how she’s adapted to her grueling schedule (cue the bone broth and yoga), the complexities of being an Indigenous woman in Australia, and how finding joy in the everyday has become a coping mechanism. Today, she shares Her Agenda.
On her morning routine:
I get up at 4am Monday to Friday. The Triple J Breakfast shift starts at 5am. I’m strict about my morning routine because I need the process to wake up. I’ll have a cup of tea with nice honey in it and gelatin. Then I’ll have some bone broth and some porridge or fruit. I wait until after 7am to have a coffee because I don’t like coffee to be the first thing I put in my body. (If I have time I might make the bone broth at home but usually I buy it.) On live radio I have to be totally awake. I can’t cheat my way through the morning show. I need my brain to be firing quickly so I have to be well-rested and fed so I can bring positive energy to the show.
On managing the early mornings:
The only way I can get through it is if I look after myself by not drinking too much, getting enough sleep and managing stress, because if something gets thrown out I notice it straight away. I credit the reason I can push so hard and work so many jobs to doing heaps of yoga every day and eating really well.
On the power of a 17 minutes:
I also do breathing exercises as soon as I wake up and I do stretches when I get to work. I’m off air at 9am and that’s when we’ll plan and prep the show for the next day and I’ll focus on other work I do for the ABC, like TV shows or columns. I don’t stop until 1pm. Power napping saves me. I have a 17-minute nap when I get home. I’ve timed it perfectly. Any less than 17 minutes and I don’t feel like I’m getting enough rest and any more I feel groggy. Breathing and mindfulness helps me stop my mind. I can fall asleep within a few minutes. I meditate daily especially if there’s something difficult that I’m trying to push through.
“The only way I can get through [work] is if I look after myself by not drinking too much, getting enough sleep and managing stress. If something gets thrown out I notice it straight away.”
On adapting to reporting life:
When I was an intern at the ABC the job was so full on that I thought, “There is no way I’ll ever be able to do this. I’m not cut out for it.” I remember one court case about a mentally ill woman who’d killed her baby. It gave me PTSD for a week and I thought, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to report on these stories and not be affected by them.” I had to grow up and accept that sometimes shitty things happen in the world and not take it all on board so personally. I still get upset if I’m covering sad stories but it’s never like that first time.
On covering her first election as a political correspondent:
After interning at the ABC, I went to work full time at NITV at SBS in their Sydney Bureau while I was still studying. I dropped my course load so I could manage it. After seven months of being there I was promoted to be their political correspondent. I remember being in Parliament House on a deadline for the news that night and having my uni course coordinator call me about an overdue assignment. I had to say, “I’m filing for the actual news!” That said, I got through with lots of extensions. The week I started in Canberra, Kevin Rudd rolled Julia Gillard and two weeks later he called an election. Within months I was on the campaign bus following Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott around. I think if I’d worked up to that over a number of years I might have been more intimidated, but it happened so quickly. There is so much to be said for the background knowledge you build up over time as political correspondent. I didn’t have that yet, but I didn’t have time to worry about it.
On the importance of being politically engaged:
We are so lucky to be born in Australia. We have healthcare and a decent minimum wage and there is a massive safety net under us. Sometimes I think people take our democracy and our sense of fairness for granted. Politics isn’t boring. It doesn’t take much for it to be rattled — we see it happening in other parts of the world right now — so we should be engaged in the political process and we should care where our taxes are going.
On knowing your history:
We need to acknowledge that all our good fortune is built upon the dispossession of others. When I travel to other parts of the world where there have been wars or massacres or genocide, like Berlin for example, there’s a real understanding of where they are in their history and how they got there. In Australia, we tend to ignore our history because it’s uncomfortable and because it’s been so contentious for so long. But I think we’re in a special time. We are ready, as a nation, to start accepting and acknowledging our past – and perhaps reevaluate who our national heroes are. When it comes to Indigenous ways of being and culture, people have seen Aboriginal people in certain contexts, but they haven’t thought too hard about why the situation is the way it is. Why someone might be traumatized.
“When it comes to sadness or being run down, I only let it take me down for a few hours. I experience it and then I pull myself back up and keep going.”
On the first time she was aware of race:
When you’re an Aboriginal person in Australia it can feel like you’re treated differently. The first time I was aware of race was when I was five or six learning about Captain Cook and the First Fleet at School and there was deafening silence. To be a child and have your experience ignored and to have everyone pretend that you and your ancestors don’t exist is even worse than being ridiculed. You’re teaching children that a fact of our culture and history is so unimportant that we’re going to pretend it doesn’t even exist. That silence affects the way we see ourselves and the way others see us.
On handling pressure:
I find strength from the women in my family. I think of the things my grandmother and great grandmother had to endure and it helps me pick myself up and keep going because I owe it to them to keep pushing. We know the statistics around Aboriginal people’s lives. We are more likely to be assaulted, raped, murdered and commit suicide – so by virtue of those numbers alone we know that our lives are quite difficult. Then I combine that with the responsibility I have to my workplace, and the country more broadly, and as a visible person trying to think deeply about the issues that affect us—it can be taxing. We had an incident in my family recently and it was during an intense period of work for me. I thought of the resilience and strength of the women in my family and it helped me stay strong.
On seeking out joy:
Because I’m covering the news I’m aware of all the heartache in the world and I think that’s why it’s even more important to bring joy into every single part of your life wherever you can. I laugh as much as I can and I try to see the silly side of everything. I seek out happy experiences. I do the Bondi to Bronte. I watch a kid’s movie or have a nice coffee or a piece of cake for no reason. When it comes to sadness or being run down—mental illness is a whole separate category—I only let it take me down for a few hours. I experience it and then I pull myself back up and keep going.
On the woman who inspires her:
Senator Malarndirri McCarthy inspires me. I met her when we worked together at NITV. Now she’s a labor senator for the Northern Territory. Her strength and confidence meant she was never competitive or threatened by younger women. She wanted to empower everyone around her. I thought, that’s the sort of woman I want to be. She was a joy to be around. I think it’s important to emulate people we admire at work, but equally we have to make sure we don’t pick up shitty habits from bad bosses. There used to be a bullying culture in some news rooms. Veteran journalists saying to younger ones, “If you can’t handle it you’re not cut out to be a journo”, but that’s not true. That’s a culture of bullying and silencing people and it doesn’t make you a better journalist. I do think it’s shifting which is positive.
Being a feminist means checking our own behavior. A while back, a beautiful girl came to work for us and I felt threatened. I found myself judging her and thinking, “I hope she knows what she’s doing”. I made an unfair assumption about her because of the way she looked. So, when I think of feminism and equality I try to check my behavior to make sure I’m treating people as equally as possible. Part of it is also working on myself so I’m not worried or threatened by someone else. For so long there was only one seat for a woman at the table and now there are so many more opportunities for us, we don’t need to be competitive. Often those negative narratives that get into our heads have been set up in another era or by men. I think feminism is about being confident in ourselves as women and helping and supporting other women to find their voice, confidence and strength.
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