Arthur Beetson was a great Australian; one of the greatest. In his lifetime Arthur was a leader and a larrikin. He was revered by a nation as the greatest rugby league forward of all time and its first Indigenous Australian captain of a national sporting team. Arthur loved Queensland and in turn Queensland loved him. There would be no State of Origin but for Arthur.
He was a man who had time for everyone and freely gave his time to everyone. A pat on the back from his giant hand or a kind word with his big smile was magical, lives were changed and hard times weren’t so hard. Arthur was a proud Aboriginal boy from the bush, the son of a stolen generation woman. In his death Arthur sadly became the face of closing the gap, dying 15 years before the Australian average life span and from heart disease and diabetes. Even one of the greatest Australian could not escape the fate of too many of his Indigenous Australian brothers and sisters.
On his passing so that Arthur’s remarkable legacy lives on the Arthur Beeston Foundation was set up to help close that gap by engaging the community to empower Indigenous Australians to better outcomes in health, education, sport, employment and business development. The Arthur Beetson Foundation now honours Indigenous Australians who help Arthur’s legacy live on by themselves making an outstanding contribution to Queensland Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people through Rugby League by presenting them with the Arthur Beetson Medal.
An Arthur Beetson Medallist is a person who like the great man himself cares deeply about their people and honours their culture while displaying Arthur’s terrific talents, skills, and humility on or off the playing field. The Arthur Beetson Medal is not necessarily awarded annually but only when appropriate to a person and the time to do so.
It is only fitting that the first Arthur Beetson Medallist is Johnathan Thurston.