NRL legend Johnathan Thurston has vowed to continue fighting to improve the lives of his fellow Indigenous Australians, despite the failure of Saturday’s Voice to Parliament referendum.
The four-time Dally M medallist, who publicly supported the referendum’s success, said it was a “sad day” for Australia, however he said he would continue to “fight for our kids”.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for us to unite Australians and acknowledge the oldest living culture that’s been here for 60,000 years,” the Gunggari man told The Project on Monday.
“It is a sad day, in my eyes, for Australia, but that’s not going to stop what I continue to do and that is to help inspire the next generation of our culture, that (sic) are still dying eight years younger than the rest of our nation.”
Thurston added that Indigenous Australians had a higher incarceration rate against non-Indigenous demographics, and said Aboriginal kids lived and went to school in “third world conditions”.
Nationally, only 39.6 per cent of the population voted Yes on Saturday’s referendum, while 60.4 per cent opposed, which proposed to recognise Indigenous Australians by establishing a Voice to Parliament.
“I thought it was an opportunity to unite Australia, but while I respect what the Australian nation has voted on, I don’t agree with it,” he said.
“I will certainly continue to fight for our kids.”
The sporting great’s appearance on The Project comes after he was inducted into Sports Australia’s Hall of Fame for his contribution to NRL. He began his career with the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2002, before joining the North Queensland Cowboys in 2004.
Speaking to the panel, Thurston described himself as “much more than just a rugby league player”.
“(I’m) very proud to have rugby league has given me that opportunity to help create social change but that certainly doesn’t define who I am,” he said
“It’s been a big part of my life. I wouldn’t be where I am without that but I’ve been able to go on and achieve other things in any life.”
Thurston runs the JT Academy, which provides programs for young people and employment opportunities in remote communities in Queensland’s far north including Kowanyama, Yarrabah and Thursday Island.