MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 27: Johnathan Thurston looks on during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between the Australian Kangaroos and England at AAMI Park on October 27, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

North Queensland Cowboys co-captain and Indigenous ambassador Johnathan Thurston has won the Australian Human Rights Commission’s prestigious 2017 Human Rights Medal.

Human Rights Commission President, Professor Rosalind Croucher, presented the medal to Thurston at today’s Human Rights Awards ceremony, attended by over 500 business and community leaders, lawyers, advocates, health professionals, teachers and human rights campaigners.

Johnathan Thurston is a superstar in the National Rugby League. He is also a role model to thousands of young Australians and a mentor to Indigenous students,” Professor Croucher said.

“The Human Rights Medal honours Johnathan’s achievements, particularly his commitment to improving the education opportunities available to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Thurston is a key supporter of NRL Cowboys House, which provides mentoring and accommodation for students from remote Queensland communities.

He is also active in Deadly Kindies, a kindergarten program that supports and strengthens children’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity.

“I am fortunate to be in a position to work with Indigenous youth from early childhood through to young adulthood, and believe it is my responsibility to ensure our future generations have equal access and opportunity to live their best lives,” Thurston said.

“While I am only one person in a community of leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators who are working to create better lives for Indigenous Australians, I am honoured to be recognised and can only hope that the award will bring valuable attention to closing the education gap for all Australians.”

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Professor Croucher also congratulated the winners of seven other Human Rights awards, including the winner of the Young People’s Human Rights Medal, transgender advocate Georgie Stone.

“The 2017 Human Rights Awards acknowledge and celebrate individuals, businesses and organisations from across Australia that demonstrate exceptional leadership and commitment to advancing human rights,” Professor Croucher said.

For the full list of 2017 Human Rights Award winners, visit

Thurston’s community work was also recognised in early November when he was announced as Queensland Australian of the Year, and he now takes his place in a cohort of 32 state and territory recipients from around Australia in the national awards on 25 January 2018.


  1. JT is a genuine legend, not just on the field but also off it. He’s been a great ambassador of our game and has always been very charitable. I wish there were more people like him out there. True champion and deserves every success that he gets in life.

  2. I can only agree up to a point gotheeels. Don’t forget Thurston had a scandalous beginning to his career that resulted in him being punted from the Dogs after an “incident” in Coffs Harbour while the reasons surrounding his departure were “hushed up”. I agree that Thurston is a champion in the game, a legend both on and off the field and has truly turned his life around and tried in every way to make amends for the sins of his past (just like Greg Inglis and a number of other RL players who have had “troubled beginnings”). As such Thurston deserves all the success he gets, except this. A Human Rights Medal award is a step too far IMO. How would his victim feel do you think and how can the NRL go on celebrating “Women in League” when they keep rewarding, or turning a blind eye, to perpetrators of violent crimes against them. There are so many other awards that Thurston is worthy of, a RL Immortal amongst them, but not this.

    • @SSTID, I remember what was reported re the Coffs Harbour incident, those accusations were made against the team and not directed at JT. I might be missing something here, but was there any specific accusations made against JT? Lets remember at the time he was very young and would have been influenced by the senior players in the team, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt unless there’s evidence of any wrongdoing by JT?

      • There was. Why do you think such a young prodigy as JT was moved on quickly and quietly amidst tears by Thurston? No one else was shown the door for thus and Turvey (Steve Mortimer) would not be drawn into an explanation other than to say it was the best thing for all concerned.

        Others on ZT have posted in detail on this in the past and I am sure will be able to fill in the blanks. Or you can research this for yourself. I do enough as it is and I am not a paid journalist for this site. Do the research.

        • I don’t think you will find anything formally mentioning Thurston by name and linking him to a specific allegation as a group of players were involved. All were handed breach notices by the club and asked “to outline why they should not be reprimanded, fined, suspended or sacked.” Although charges were subsequently dropped without any explanation or attempt to clear the names of the players involved. Thurston was the only one that walked but he did not want to go. This was reportedly due to salary cap restrictions and a better offer at the Cowboys but the timing and the coincidence of this was very convenient given the scandal at the time.

          Had there been nothing in the accusations I find it hard to believe that the Bulldogs would not have fought to clear their players name and been happy to re-sign JT for less $$’s than the Cowboys given that he was seen as a rising young prodigy in the game.

          I remember this being discussed a few times in the past on ZT and I am sure there were links posted at the time so perhaps research that.

          I can’t post multiple links so I will need to make multiple posts…

        • “the accused player was not charged due to lack of evidence”

          There were other stories at the time but if there Dogs did not stand behind their player there may have been more to the story than was reported in the press. No one knows what may have been done behind the scenes to smooth things over.

          IF this is the same case as Ben T’eo and Brett Stewart being wrongly accused then I will stand corrected but it seems highly doubtful. If JT was indeed innocent then the Bulldogs organisation should have done more to clear his name. The fact that there was “no charged due to lack of evidence” is not in and of itself a proof of innocence. There are some accusations that are not easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court law without physical evidence or eyewitnesses.

        • Thanks SSTID, I’ll do some research when I get a chance and see if I can find anything there as I’m curious. The point I was making above was that without evidence we shouldn’t tarnish his reputation. We may never know whether he did any wrong re the Coffs Harbour story, for that reason I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

        • @ SSTID, I’ve read the articles that you posted above, there’s nothing specific there against JT or any other player. It may be a case of the NRL or club covering something up, or it may be a case of false accusations. I suspect that we’ll never know the truth.

        • The club had the option of standing by him but chose not to. They sent him packing instead. Perhaps the Dogs were privy to details not made public which formed their decision. I believe their are other links that were pasted on ZT in the past that may mention specific allegations against specific individuals. But as you say we will never know for sure and only those involved will know the truth.

          As I said there are so many other awards that JT could accept without any questions asked given the potential of this one to raise the questions of skeletons in the closet, it would have been easier to let this one pass to avoid any unwelcome attention. No one here has to agree with me, it’s just my opinion.

    • Mmm going over old ground isn’t in the best interest, SSTID is right , both with his criticism and praise of JT , double edged sword , it’s awards like these , accolades that are true indications of human growth and development, however the skeletons will always remain and must never be forgotten

      • Once again, was there any specific accusations made against JT? I certainly don’t recall any but am happy to be proven wrong. I wouldn’t go accusing him unless you have evidence of any wrongdoing.

    • SSTID, coming from my neck of the woods, let me tell you Thurston did nothing wrong, he pulled a girl from the Plantation hotel and they had a great time, as we was allowed to do cause he was single, seriously nothing to see here, but the locals knew exactly what was involved, the girl was up for anything, and at the pool she gave everyone what they wanted , when the night dragged on the players went to their rooms and the girl wanted more, the players basically told her to go away and when she got back to her car with her friend she cried foul, her friend said for her to grow up but she was not happy.

      At the local gym where i train, it was the talk of the town and the media went berserk with this , as we all know , but the bottom line is those Canterbury guy’s didn’t do anything wrong, all of Coffs harbour know this , it’s just the media blowing up something that simply wasn’t there , SSTID there was no cover up here or any smooth over, this girl had a reputation , and being a daughter of a school teacher you would think she would no better, trust me the Canterbury guys got stitched up big time from the media

      • To prove what i’m saying is true, i can tell you the girls name if you like and the friend who told her to grow up, Just ask.

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