Tomorrow's Graduate

Image:Tomorrow's Graduate - Brooke Boney

Expect to see and hear more of Brooke Boney in the years to come. The 25-year-old UTS undergraduate is compiling a list of résumé credits that already puts many experienced practitioners to shame. A presenter on Koori Radio, internships with the Nine Network and ABC Radio, looming work-experience stints on the national broadcaster's flagship current affairs programs Lateline and 7.30.

For Boney, a final-year Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Journalism) student, it is all part of her plan to gain experience and have a head start when she graduates at the end of this year. "It's so competitive for cadetships when we graduate, so the more on [my] CV will hopefully make it that little bit easier," she says.

Her desire to get work experience also complements UTS's commitment to a practice based journalism course that features a high proportion of working journalists on the lecturing and tutoring roster. "That kind of access to the world of journalism is amazing," Boney says.

Starring role

Boney is no ordinary student. Of Indigenous descent, she is passionate about becoming a role model for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and raising awareness of issues affecting ethnic and minority groups. She is poised to become one of the voices of her generation as it increasingly engages with peers across the region during a period that is being hailed as the Asian Century courtesy of the emergence of global super powers such as China and India.

For now, though, Boney is pleased to be honing her skills at UTS, a leader in journalism education for more than three decades which has schooled many of the nation's most acclaimed journalists. The internships, along with work at community station Koori Radio, have convinced the former sales coordinator that broadcasting is her future. She likes the fact that television and radio have a profound impact on the construction of people's reality and informs their understanding of local, national and international events. "TV and radio is the way for me," she affirms.

Reality check

Work experience has also served as a reminder to Boney about how much she has to learn if she hopes to one day reach the top of her profession. "The first day that I went in to work at the ABC, what I learnt is that I knew so little," she admits. Rather than being daunted by such a gap in knowledge and experience, Boney has used it as motivation to learn and grow. As students seek to establish their careers, she believes they face a balancing act: they need enough self-confidence to succeed while understanding they are novices. Humility, a strong work ethic and "being very keen to learn" are part of her blueprint for success. "And being willing to do anything [within an ethical framework] to make your name."

With that in mind, she questions stereotypes about members of generation Y and their supposed aversion to hard work. Boney notes that most of her UTS colleagues are willing to put in the long hours to flourish at university and beyond. "We know what it's going to take to get good work when we finish uni."

Colour blind

The journalism course at UTS is ticking all the boxes for Boney, the first member of her family to attend university.

"It's liberating to think that people take you more seriously when you are educated and that you have more of a voice as a journalist as well," she says. "I like that."

One of Boney's principal reasons for studying is to use that voice as a tool to change the way Australia thinks about its Indigenous population. For starters, she hopes more people can learn to appreciate that Indigenous people come in all shapes, sizes and colours. With an Aboriginal mother and non-Aboriginal father, Boney is like many modern Indigenous people whose skin is not as dark as ancestral Aborigines. She wants to dispel the notion that this makes her any less Aboriginal.

"It denies you your identity if people don't understand your ethnicity just because of the way you look," Boney explains. "That's why having more people of all ethnicities on TV and in the media is [crucial]. If people don't know anyone from that background then the way they understand that whole culture is from people they see on television or people they hear on the radio." Boney hopes she can use the medium of journalism to educate and inform people about Indigenouspeople and their issues.

While conceding there are now more opportunities for Indigenousvoices to be heard through government broadcasters such as the ABC and SBS, she maintains it is important for them to cross over to commercial media outlets, too. "Indigenous media is fantastic, but if Indigenous journalists and Indigenous stories are left only to media it creates the idea that those issues are only for the people who watch those channels and listen to those radio programs, rather than being an issue for all of us."

Global vision

Like many of her generation, Boney is not defined solely by her Indigenous roots or being born in Australia. She has local, regional and world views, and is proud of the fact. Boney believes Australia is fortunate to be linked geographically to an Asian region that is reshaping notions of global power. Cities such as Beijing and New Delhi now compete on a credible footing with established strongholds such as New York, Paris, Berlin and Zurich.

To further enhance our standing in Asia, Boney is adamant that we should cut the apron strings to the British monarchy and become a republic. "I think that's an important step. We are such a multicultural country and to embrace that part of our heritage (through the Royal Family) kind of discounts the value that all our other cultures in the country bring to our everyday life." Such an action would send a clear message to Asia that we are a truly independent and international country, according to Boney. "I think it's more than just symbolism."

On other matters close to her heart, Boney advocates for a referendum to change the nation's constitution to recognise Aboriginal people and repeal Section 51 (Part 26) – the so-called 'race power act' – that still allows for government to make laws based on a person's race. She says such entrenched discrimination sends out the wrong message to Australians and those watching from further abroad who have memories of the White Australia Policy.

"If we want to set an example to our Asian neighbours, we need to remove that," Boney argues. As Australia navigates its course in Asia, universities such as UTS will play a crucial role in preparing students to work in the region and engage with its citizens.

According to Boney, a focus on languages at UTS is an important contributor to a better cultural understanding of other countries. At the same time, UTS's reputation for educational quality and creativity are significant assets for undergraduates and graduates alike. Journalism education at UTS critically engages with the intellectual, ethical and political foundations of journalism that resonate with students such as Boney. She is confident the practical and theoretical skills she is acquiring through her journalism degree will serve her well into the future. "I think the degree puts us in good stead to work not only in Australia but internationally as well."

UTS will again showcase its international links with the construction of the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, Boney believes the new building sends out an important message about Australia's engagement with Asia given Dr Chau's contribution to the project. She adds that the site reinforces the standing of UTS as a creative university and will benefit all students in and around it.

"Just having such a building on campus will be amazing. I think it will be a landmark and something that all of Sydney can be proud of – not just UTS."

Multicultural focus

As a university located in Australia's growing creative and digital sector precinct, UTS is preparing students for a world in which creative thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset are highly valued. Boney appreciates being part of a progressive university and believes it plays to the region's strengths as an emerging business and technology hub. She hopes the economic gains of such progress will be felt right across the Asia-Pacific region, in addition to wider societal benefits stemming from technology advances and the rise of social media formats. For her part, Boney cannot conceive of a world without Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media tools. The only caveat is that such fora sometimes allow anonymous critics to express racist and sexist views, raising questions about how or whether to censor and police such contemporary media channels.

"I am concerned about that, but I can't imagine my life without social media." As the world deals with such issues and much bigger ones including global warming and economic inequality, Boney confirms that such topics are always on the agenda for generation Y.

She and her friends are also focused on issues closer to home, such as the aforementioned push to become a republic and improve racial equality. Boney believes such matters strike at the heart of perceptions about Australia's national identity and the importance of championing our multicultural history.

With the nation comprising a melting pot of British, Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Middle Eastern immigrants, among others, she says it is vital to remember that Australia is home to a diversity of cultures, not just that of the early colonisers. "Every culture contributes to the fabric that is Australia. That's an amazing thing and we should acknowledge it."

Boney notes that the UTS campus reflects the nation's multicultural ties, with students being drawn from numerous countries across the globe. The University integrates intercultural and global perspectives into all facets of campus life, including a commitment to internationalisation of the curriculum. Likewise, Boney says the media plays a vital role in shaping Australia's identity because of the stories it pursues and the sources it uses. Upon graduation, she hopes to help give more people a voice. "I'm just a lowly minion now … but that's something to aspire to."

With just months to go before finishing her degree, Boney is excited at the prospect of rising through the media ranks in the years to come. She hopes to become a respected reporter and dreams of one day becoming a correspondent for the likes of the ABC or a similarly well-respected media group.

"I am lucky being so young and having all these great idealistic goals for my career and I hope I can stick to them – and get work when I finish my degree."

Words: Cameron Cooper
Images: Anthony Geernaert