Studio 10 host Narelda Jacobs hopes her family is “proud” of her Indigenous activism after she spoke about changing the date of Australia Day during a TV segment last week.
The 43-year-old’s father Cedric Jacobs was a Whadjuk Nyoongar man and member of the Stolen Generations, while her mother migrated to Australia from Northern Ireland with her family.
For a long time Narelda celebrated January 26 and decided “to turn my back” on Invasion Day or Survival Day events that acknowledged Indigenous people’s trauma from colonisation. Years later she realised her “misguided belief that I had to embrace January 26”, and wished she had acted sooner.
“One of my biggest regrets was not going to a Survival Day concert with my dad,” she told HuffPost Australia.
Narelda’s father, who never saw his parents after being forced into a mission at age nine, sadly passed away 18 months ago following a devastating cancer battle.
“My nieces and nephews are strongly connected to their culture, that they had really beautiful moments with their pop at these Survival Day concerts,” said Narelda.
The television host explained her younger relatives had spoken of “how they had the most beautiful time with their pop and he was so proud of them by being able to stand next to them and celebrate who we are as Aboriginal people at a Survival Day concert.
“I missed out on the opportunity because I turned my back so far the other way and that’s my biggest regret. So I just hope that he’s looking down and that he has that pride again, that proud feeling that we’re taking a stand here.”
Taking that stand was difficult for the past 12 years Narelda spent reading the news for Channel Ten in Perth.
“As a news anchor, you’re not allowed to speak politically and so my hands were tied in a lot of ways,” she said. “As soon as the opportunity came to be on a panel where you have to have an opinion about things… I thought it was a great opportunity,” she then added, referring to her Studio 10 co-host gig she started this year.
Last week Narelda proposed the date of Australia Day be changed to the third Monday of January, and told HuffPost that while what she was saying “was confronting for a lot of people, it’s not confronting for me, it’s my reality”.
“It won’t change people’s day-to-day lives in remote communities. They’re still going to have the issues that they work tirelessly to overcome on a daily basis,” she said. “But it’s a mindset. It changes the mindset Australia-wide. It helps to understand the current situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“It will open people’s minds and allow them to understand where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are coming from and why the issues they face are there in the first place because every issue that is faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people stems from the arrival of the First Fleet. Full stop.”
Narelda immersed herself in Australia Day celebrations while growing up, partly because she believed January 26 symbolised half of who she was due to her mother’s Irish heritage. Her perspective changed some years later.
“It was like a burden had lifted when I realised, ‘Why have I got this misguided belief that I need to turn my back on Invasion Day marches and rallies and even Survival day concerts and rallies?’ It was a misguided belief that I had to embrace January 26 because it was half of who I am.”
She then realised, “Hang on a sec, it doesn’t represent half of who I am, I am not the First Fleet. I am not someone who came to Australia, my being shouldn’t represent someone who came and [stole] land from a whole nation of people who had sophisticated ways of doing things – environmental things, family structures, kinship structures, their own way of law”.
Narelda said it’s “the next generation” in her family, including her daughter Jade and nieces and nephews, whose desire to learn about Indigenous culture has always been “stronger”.
“Jade’s cousins are on the frontline of fighting for equality and equal rights for Aboriginal people and they just make us so proud,” she said.
“My sisters and I just took it for granted that we grew up always believing who we are and having that sense of belonging and passed it on to our children. But they want to learn more, they want to know more about their culture. I’m just so proud of Jade and her generation for actively seeking it out and also sharing their knowledge as well.”
When she hosts NITV’s Sunrise Ceremony live from West Head, NSW on Sunday January 26, Narelda said it’s “not going to be a day of mourning but a day of celebrating who we are and what we’ve been able to achieve over the last couple of hundred years.
“Because we are still a proud nation of Indigenous people that walk alongside non-Indigenous people both from Australia and from overseas who have moved here. We live in a great country. We love Australia and we love Australians and it is going to be a celebration of who we are on Sunday morning.”