Johnathan Thurston believes once Australia is more informed about why the national holiday’s date is hurtful to indigenous people, change will happen.
The 36-year-old, who is set to retire from rugby league as one of the sport’s greats after the upcoming season, also urged governments to make indigenous affairs a priority after an “alarming” failure to meet Close The Gap targets over the past decade.
Thurston said the country needs to “have a chat” about Australia Day.
“It’s not just about the First Fleet, it’s about the stealing of the land, the misplacement of the stolen generation and the injustices that were done over the years,” Thurston said.
“Australia Day is meant to be inclusive of everyone but obviously some in our culture don’t feel included on this day.
“I think people need to be educated on why they don’t feel included on this day.”
The NRL superstar is Queensland’s Australian of the Year and one of eight finalists in the running for the national award to be announced in Canberra on Thursday.
Thurston said sport had given him a platform to pursue his passion of mentoring the next generation of indigenous Australians.
“Our culture has been around for thousands of years and the way we’re going it’s not going to be around for thousands more,” Thurston said.
“We need to be making sure the government is putting indigenous affairs at the forefront of their campaigns.”