Revealed: Thurston’s shock family trauma

 

Rugby league legend Johnathan Thurston has revealed how his life changed forever after learning his mother was part of the stolen generation.

In an emotional insight into his upbringing, the retired NRL star has told for the first time how he was unaware of his mother's trauma until 10 years ago.

The former North Queensland Cowboys and Queensland Origin captain said the revelation was the "missing piece in the puzzle of my life" and its defining turning point.

"I went to a school that had a large population of Aboriginal kids, so I wasn't aware of the racism that my elders had faced (growing up),'' Thurston said.

"It wasn't until I did a bit of research on our family history. My dad is Kiwi and my mum is Aboriginal, so they copped a fair bit of backlash.

Johnathan Thurston with his parents Graeme and Debbie. Picture: Bryan Lynch
Johnathan Thurston with his parents Graeme and Debbie. Picture: Bryan Lynch

"I didn't experience any form of that racism as a kid. It's hard to talk to children about traumatic experiences you've faced and that's what my mum and dad had faced.

"Mum's family were removed from their mum and dad at a young age. I wasn't aware of that until probably 10 years ago. No doubt they (parents) sheltered our family from their upbringing and tried to provide a life for us that was better than what they had.''

Speaking on a new weekly podcast Bounce Back, sponsored by DrinkWise and hosted by Dr Andrew Rochford and designed to help Australians who are facing adversity or feeling lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thurston said it was a culmination of wanting to learn about his family history during the NRL's annual Indigenous All Stars match in 2010 and his arrest for public drunkenness later that year, which led him towards understanding more about his culture.

Former Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty
Former Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty

"We did an exercise with Dr Chris Sarra (ahead of the All Stars match) who said 'if you know much about your family history stand at this end of the room and if you don't know much about your family history stand at the opposite end of the room','' Thurston said.

"I always knew my mum grew up in Mitchell which is about eight hours west of Brisbane, but that was about the extent of what I'd known.

"After that exercise I rang mum and said I want to find out more about where you grew up.

"I got my grandfather, four uncles and about a dozen cousins and we spent a weekend out there meeting the elders.

"It was the missing piece of the puzzle in my life.

"Without that weekend, I don't think I'd be where I am today because it certainly paved the way for what I wanted to do later in life.''

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE

Johnathan Thurston's mother Debbie was part of the stolen generation.
Johnathan Thurston's mother Debbie was part of the stolen generation.


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