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.”

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.

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