We caught up with the show’s hosts Shahni Wellington and Ryan Liddle a few days before making TV history to talk cooking segments, NAIDOC Week celebrations and to find out what’s on their screens.
Imogen Craddock Kandel: So top-line, what's Big Mob Brekky?
Ryan Liddle: Look, Big Mob Brekky is an amazing opportunity for us as First Nations people to enter a space where we just haven't seen that sort of representation. It's of course about bringing eyeballs to Indigenous issues and Indigenous affairs but it's also about showing our creative side and all the things great that we can celebrate about our country's First Nations people.
Shahni Wellington: And it's waking up with mob, which is something we haven't ever had the opportunity to do. It's about being able to hang out and wake up with these communities in a really positive, fun way, and to showcase who we are as people at the same time. And you know what? It is about our mob and our communities, but at the same time this is a way for the wider public to tune in and see what we're about and learn about our stories and our issues from us.
ICK: Are there any segments on the show that you're particularly looking forward to?
SW: Yeah, I think we can divulge a few. The one that I'm excited for is the cooking one. We're not taking part, just for the audiences benefit.
SW: We will have Steve Mungindi who a lot of our audiences would be familiar with. He's a crack-up and he's going on with Clayton Donovan and they'll be cooking up a storm.
RL: Yeah, it'll be a cooking segment with a difference. A great energy and vibe, but also with a bit of tongue in cheek action. We guarantee that you'll finish watching our show with a smile on your face. But we've got comedy segments, we've got guests coming into the program, we're doing a bit of a tour around Taronga Zoo as well. I don't know if you know, but that's where we're going to be broadcasting from next week.
SW: It's beautiful. Our backdrop is just the whole harbour and everything.
RL: Yeah, we had a rehearsal yesterday. It went really well. And I hadn't been there for a few years, but gee, that place is beautiful and the shot to the harbour ...
SW: They have a real deadly program there with Aboriginal keepers and a rehabilitation program. And so some of the workers there are going to go hang out with Rachael Hocking, one of our best journos and face of The Point. And so she's going to be going around the zoo and learning about what they do there and how they're restoring our native friends and helping them with their breeding and things like that.
ICK: That's great.
RL: Yep, and we'll also be touching base with all of our First Nations media partners around the country just to check in with them and to see what's happening in their state or territory in regards to NAIDOC Week events.
SW: Yeah, it's a bit hard with COVID. We will be in the big city in Sydney, but we want to make this show as much about the communities and the people on the ground as we can. Hopefully we can make it as grassroots and regional as we can with the resourcing and the border controls that we have at the moment.
ICK: I wanted to touch on representation and the difference between the importance of Brooke Boney being on Today versus a project like Big Mob Brekky. Could you talk a little bit about that?
RL: I think it's amazing that Brooke has been in that [breakfast TV] space and doing her thing and providing that sort of insight, which was otherwise missing for a long time. As you know, there's very, very little in the way of representation in that space. So it's great that we've had her there. In that short time, she's had her issues, I guess, with her views when asked about things like Jan 26, for example. But the fact that they did ask her in the first place, that's a step in the right direction. And I think this is just the natural evolution of that where we're going from being just asked for special comments or on the side to "no, this will be driven by us". We'll be the ones behind the show rather than just appearing as part of it.
SW: And historically, we haven't been the ones to tell our stories, especially in such a competitive space like breakfast television. And also having said that, what a testament to Brooke. Because we need as much representation across the board. But what we bring is a place that is culturally safe. You are waking up with mob here and hopefully we can provide another option for the market.
ICK: While Big Mob Brekky is significant, NAIDOC Week is also a celebration in its own right. I would love to hear how you’ll be celebrating NAIDOC, just personally.
SW: Personally, well, NAIDOC is such a special time for us. It's a special time for us to have that recognition and celebrate where we've come from. But this year's theme is “always was, always will be.” And I think that's really special for us to take time to reflect that this has always been Aboriginal land – and the struggles, but also the accomplishments of our mob. And when you talk about things like Native Title in a time and space where were starting our very first breakfast show, it's just showing that we exist and we always have existed in every structure that there is in Australia, in this country. And I think we'll be celebrating by being on the show, but outside of that I think we'll all be getting out there and having fun and celebrating NAIDOC – when we're not napping at home after that early wake up.
RL: I think it's probably the toughest time ever to celebrate anything given what 2020 has been, and particularly for Indigenous community with Black Lives Matter, the Juukan Gorge destruction earlier in the year over in Western Australia. We saw the sacred trees down in [regional Victoria on Djap Wurrung Country] as well. So you can't ignore those things. It is a tough time to be First Nations in Australia, but like Shahni said, this is also a celebration. The fact that we've got this show, this is going to be a first for us. Now that's something to celebrate in itself. And of course, we won't have our usual kind of NAIDOC get-togethers and what we're used to in the past but there will still be things happening around the country.
ICK: I’m really curious to know what the future of Big Mob Brekky is after this. I know that you're just doing it for NAIDOC week, but is there any talk of continuing it?
RL: Look, we're hoping that it goes well enough that there is a space for us to fill on a more permanent basis, but it might come down to the bean counters on that one. What do you reckon, Sharns?
SW: Look, I think it's exciting for us because I think this is an opportunity for us to show that we do have the talent and the content and the storytelling and all of the things that would make a brilliant breakfast show. So I think this is a great opportunity for us and hopefully we get the viewership, we get the support.
ICK: I just have one more question for you: what's on your screens right now? Are you playing a videogame? Are you watching a series? What are you loving?
SW: Oh, by the gods, I'm neck deep in Vikings on Netflix. And I'm quite late to the party, but ... Ragnar Lothbrok! And I keep bringing things [from the series] into my everyday vocabulary and my partner hates it. “By the gods” is this random sentence that I've just introduced into my everyday. But yeah, Vikings is my safe space at the moment.
RL: Well, I guess keeping with that theme, I'm watching on Netflix and Stan respectively, the new one Blood of Zeus and Yellowstone, which I love.
SW: Oh yeah. Bit dramatic, but I vibe, I vibe.
RL: I’m still on the PlayStation 4, just waiting for the PlayStation 5 to drop this summer. Looking forward to that. I should be right in the meantime, plenty of Netflix and Stan to go around. The new Mandalorian's coming out as well on Disney, so I'll jump back on that I reckon.
– Imogen Craddock Kandel is ACMI’s Media and Communications Manager. She’s a former magazine editor and book publicist.