Johnathan Thurston takes the reef to kids in locked down communities

At least 100 school students from remote Indigenous communities will join Johnathan Thurston on a virtual dive of the Great Barrier Reef as part of an exciting new partnership between his academy and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The students, from the remote Kowanyama and Yarrabah communities, are members of the JT Academy. The dive will be held on May 26, 2020 to celebrate the launch of the JTReefDreaming program, which will virtually connect young Australians with one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.

With the help of reef education scuba divers at the Authority’s Reef HQ Aquarium, the students will enjoy a virtual dive on the reef with JT. The students will also be provided with educational workbooks which look at the Reef and how they can help protect it, and test their knowledge through a series of question and answer sheets.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley welcomed the initiative.

“It’s a great idea that provides a fun, novel approach to learning about the rich ecosystems of this natural wonder,” Minister Ley said.

“Johnathan Thurston is an inspirational leader who can help kids connect with the Reef, inspire them to learn more about it, and provide a break from the challenges of COVID-19 Isolation.

“These are the next generation of Reef custodians and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s national education center is working with JT to inspire them from a young age.”

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch said: “This is a fantastic initiative and one that will continue to highlight the beauty and vibrancy of our Great Barrier Reef.

“JT is s role model for many indigenous kids and it is great to see him on-board with this initiative.”

JT, the Managing Director of the JT Academy, said he was proud that the academy was able to make the program happen during COVID-19 and that he could virtually connect with the students, who had been in isolation for almost ten weeks.

“The JTReefDreaming program is important because it is connecting our kids with one of the greatest natural wonders of the world so that we will be able to help protect it in the future,” JT said.

“In response to COVID-19, our team has worked really hard to ensure the kids, who the academy worked with, were not left behind and our educational programs didn’t just stop. This is a great program which I’m very proud the academy could deliver.”

Minister Ley said that it was timely that JTReefDreaming was being launched just as National Reconciliation Week was about to begin on 27 May with the theme “In This Together”.

“The Authority has already scaled up its education outreach programs to support families that are home-schooling while social distancing measures are in place,” she said. “JTReefDreaming is extending that support directly into Aboriginal communities.”

JT said the students and families across Australia will have free access to the JTReefDreaming workbooks for two weeks on the JT Academy website.

To download a copy visit

The Johnathan Thurston Academy launches new booklets to help young Aussies shine and build vital soft skills for self-development.

The JT Academy is continuing its drive to help young Australians shine, launching a series of interactive booklets to keep them educated and informed on important issues.

JTBelieve is a series of 7 booklets inspired by the programs and workshops that are delivered and run by the JT Academy. Johnathan and his team have developed programs, books, and resources that aim to empower our youth, to achieve personal growth and life success.

Available through the JTResources page of the academy’s website, the booklets in the JTBelieve series are available as ebooks or paperbacks.  Primary and Secondary school versions available for each booklet. Suited and developed for all learning styles.

They are illustrative of the faith JT had when working hard despite early rejections to reach the highest heights of the NRL. The JTBelieve series of booklets, inspire hard work, educate, and improve self-development.

The second and third series will cover employment and empowering young women, available in the coming weeks.

JT Academy Managing Director Johnathan Thurston said the booklets were an important part of the academy’s reason to exist.

“We created the JT Academy in 2018 to help make a difference in the lives of young people, and these booklets are a key part of that goal,” he said.

To access the booklets go to

Indigenous commissioned artist reveals the JT Academy story through his unique design

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Since the 2018 launch of the JT Academy, as a new business, the journey so far has been challenging and rewarding. The team is driven to make a difference and has already grown and achieved so much. As an Indigenous-owned and Supply Nation registered business, Managing Director, Johnathan Thurston AM, recently commissioned Theodore based Indigenous artist, Wayne Martin, to produce a unique design piece that would represent the facets of this journey and goals for the future.

Wayne and his wife Danielle are the owners of Ngurambang Cultural Education and Aboriginal Art. Wayne describes the story within his design as beginning with a meeting place to represent the creation and drive behind the JT Academy. From there, pathways lead off to areas depicting the key values of youth, education, employment and community – all interconnected, now and into the future. Overall, the design portrays the passion, kindness, hard work, pride and teamwork that makes the JT Academy unique and successful.

“Along my cultural journey, I have met a lot of strong cultural men, and this is what inspires my art,” said Wayne, a proud Wiradjuri/Maranganji (Mardigan) man.

“I am humbled to provide this artwork for Johnathan Thurston and enjoyed incorporating his totem, the Emu, and creating something that tells a complete story of the JT Academy.

“It is really important to share our culture; this is something that we, myself and my wife Danielle, are very passionate about, it is the reason we started our business.”

JT intends for elements of the design to appear within the Academy branding and marketing.

“The artwork will be positioned in the JT Academy office as a proud reminder of our history and our future and be something that inspires the team every day,” said Thurston.

New partnership will narrow the gap in employment opportunities

Vivid Logo

The JT Academy is proud to announce it has teamed up with commercial cleaning company Vivid Property Services to offer employment opportunities through the JTEmployIndigenous program.

Founded in 2007 by Managing Director Scott Agnew, Vivid Property Services puts more than 2000 vetted, well-trained, quality-controlled commercial cleaners into airports, government facilities, educational institutions and the secure offices of some of Australia’s most prestigious companies every day.

Vivid CEO Peter Watson said the company had been impressed by the JT Academy’s focus on “narrowing the gap in employment opportunities” and what it offered back to the community.

“It is quite unique in terms of its approach to the programs it runs, targeting teenagers and young adults,” Mr Watson said.

“We support a number of organisations that operate in that space, including surf life saving, and that community service element is something we look for in a partner.

Johnathan Thurston is a role model in the community and both the academy and JT’s personal brand are a perfect fit with Vivid and our sister company, Vivid Indigenous Services.

“We have a national footprint and recruit employees in regional, rural and remote areas, so working closely with the JT Academy will help give us a greater voice and a profile in this very important employment space.”

Mr Watson said Vivid Property Services had a strong focus on making a difference in peoples’ lives, including providing sponsorship and support such as it did for an Indigenous soccer team that competed in the 2019 national titles.

Former Brisbane Roar player Jade North – one of the first Indigenous men to play soccer for Australia – will be working closely with the JT Academy in his role as Vivid’s Client Relationship Manager.

“Jade is making his transition from professional sport into a business career and working with a guy like JT they will be fantastic role models and able to make a meaningful impact for so many young people,” Mr Watson said.

“We like to think we are putting our money where our mouth is in helping to make a difference and our partnership with the JT Academy will prove to be mutually beneficial.”

JT Academy General Manager Samantha Johnson welcomed the partnership with Vivid as another vital part of being able to develop and delivering high-quality programs that equipped young jobseekers with the right skills, knowledge, and attributes to make a significant and positive future impact.

“Through strong partnerships with employers such as Vivid, we are committed to supporting individuals to reach personal, educational, and career goals,” she said.

“It’s about installing the confidence in young Australians that there are opportunities out there and there are people and companies who want to make a solid commitment.”

Academy Managing Director Johnathan Thurston also welcomed the partnership.

“By joining forces with like-minded organisations such as Vivid, we are supporting our nation’s youth and growing their skills helps to build their confidence and unleash their full potential,” he said.

“The JT Academy programs aim to empower individuals with confidence, courage, self-belief and incorporate wellbeing and mental health conversations in all our programs.”

JT and his Academy celebrate their second birthday

JT Programs

For much of his rugby league career, Johnathan Thurston made young fans’ dreams come true by handing them his headgear at the end of a match.

Now the JT Academy is fast becoming a leading national provider of outstanding employment initiatives and community programs aimed at employment, education, and wellbeing.

“It’s always been something that’s been close to my heart and throughout my playing career I was very aware of the importance of being a role model to all kids, and especially Indigenous kids,” JT said as the JT Academy celebrated its second birthday in February 2020.

JT first had the idea for the academy in 2010, after he and members of his family undertook a pilgrimage to the Mitchell area to reconnect with his past.

“I realised I had the platform through rugby league to make a difference for the next generation and I had such a passion for education and keeping kids in school and to start having conversations about what came after school, whether it’s about further education or getting a head start into employment,” he said.

Today, the JT Academy’s key strengths are its robust employment, community, and education engagement platforms and capability. They are a powerful brand and a national ambassador of positive messaging and Johnathan Thurston, as Managing Director and driver of the Academy, leads his team with a passion for his culture and our nation’s youth.

JT Academy General Manager Samantha Johnson said the academy team work tirelessly in developing and delivering high-quality programs equipping participants with the right skills, knowledge, and attributes to make a significant and positive future impact.

“Through strong partnerships, we are committed to supporting individuals to reach personal, educational, and career goals,” she said.

“We want the process to be more than ticking a box. It’s about installing the confidence in young Australians that there are opportunities out there and there are people and companies who want to make a solid commitment and show what real leadership looks like.

“The more Australians we can help find work, which is long-lasting, the more successful we have been.”

Using their powerful engagement capabilities, the JTAcademy team strives to reach and engage individuals and communities to increase workforce participation.  It is dedicated to working with companies, organisations, and industries and has a clear goal to provide stronger, more diversified economies across the nation by generating quality job opportunities and attracting and retaining a skilled and diverse workforce.

“We know that supporting our nation’s youth and growing their skills helps to build their confidence and unleash their full potential,” Johnathan says. “The JT Academy programs aim to empower individuals with confidence, courage, self-belief and incorporate wellbeing and mental health conversations in all our programs.

“Our goal with our community programs is to create an ongoing pipeline of amazing individuals and leaders who will not only step up to influence policy and drive change, also developing those who will be ready and inspired to enter employment with full confidence.

“We aim to harness the potential of a powerful and positive network, for a sustainable long-term collaborative approach.”

The Johnathan Thurston Academy is a community of learning through storytelling of personal growth and experience from one generation to the next.  Participants achieve personal growth and life success through the inspiration of belief. However, the greatest lessons they learn from the Johnathan Thurston Academy and Johnathan’s messaging is how to inspire others to go on and achieve the same

“It’s been a busy two years for everyone at the academy and it’s good to see just how much we have achieved in such a short time,” JT said. “It has already exceeded my original expectations.

“A highlight for me was watching eight of our JTWomenToLead participants on stage with a microphone in their hand at our client Christmas party last year – each telling their story.

“There was not a dry eye in the audience – including myself. I was so incredibly proud of how far they had come.

“We have got plenty more ahead this year, with some big plans for employment and education.

“I want to thank all our partners for their ongoing support, without them – we could not do what we do.”

Johnathan Thurston to visit Quilpie to deliver motivational workshops to locals

JT Speaker

Australian rugby league legend Johnathan Thurston will bring his Johnathan Thurston Academy to Quilpie at the end of October to present a series of workshops to the local community to help inspire and prepare them for the future. He will also attend the official opening of the refurbished Quilpie Football Grounds.

Areas covered by Quilpie Shire Council have been particularly hard hit by the drought crisis. Thurston’s visit to the region is being funded by the Western Queensland PHN under the Empowering Our Communities Initiative and Quilpie Shire Council.

It is hoped the workshops will help lift the spirits of locals bringing them together to celebrate as a community.

Thurston will arrive in Quilpie on October 28 where he will host junior rugby league workshops at the footy grounds. The following day Thurston and his team from the Johnathan Thurston Academy will deliver the JTSucceed workshop to local students, which has been designed to encourage youth to stay in school – and attend – until they have finished their education.

The team will then deliver the JTFutureLeaders Workshop to a selected group of 18 to 35-year-olds from the region who hold, or are moving into, leadership positions. It has been developed to help build their confidence and understanding of the importance of their roles in being good role models placing the community firmly at the centre of their decision-making.

Rural landholders and staff from Quilpie Shire Council will also benefit from a motivational session from Thurston to boost morale.

The three day visit has been made possible thanks to Quilipie Shire Council and the Western Queensland PHN a not-for-profit organisation formed by South West Hospital and Health Service, Central West Hospital and Health Service and North West Hospital and Health Services. The group’s charter is to provide a strong foundational platform to improve primary health care services throughout the Western Queensland region which has been badly affected by drought.

Quilpie Shire Council Mayor, Stuart Mackenzie said the visit is sure to boost the spirits of the small outback communities of the shire. 

“Rural property owners and local business operators have been particularly hard hit by the impacts of the prolonged drought conditions,” Cr Mackenzie said.

“The impacts resonate throughout the entire community including our youth whose families are often struggling financially.”

Thurston, who is the Managing Director of the JT Academy, has spent much of his time since retiring from rugby league promoting programs which encourage and support Australian youth into meaningful employment and education.

“The JT Academy was developed to inspire, support and to set our nation’s youth up to succeed across all areas of their life: employment, education and wellbeing. It’s our absolute pleasure when we get the opportunity to extend our reach to youth living in remote and regional communities,” Thurston explained.

“With the support of our corporate partners and invitations such as this from local councils, we are able to get into some of these communities and deliver programs which make a tangible difference to the lives of local kids and, as a result, the whole community benefits.

“The more we can encourage and support our young people to find a strong sense of self-belief, confidence, courage and purpose, the better prepared they will be to lead future generations. It is a small investment but a worthy one.”

Thanks Lendlease for joining us on this journey

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More than four years ago we commenced the planning and development of the Johnathan Thurston Academy with a clear vision of supporting young people to succeed in employment, education, health and wellbeing.

When having conversations with various corporates, it was always our goal to partner with companies and organisations who share the same values and are like-minded in caring for their people and their community.

At our very first meeting with Lendlease, we knew immediately that we were two like-minded organisations and shared values of respect, integrity, collaboration and trust. What we didn’t realise at that meeting was that Lendlease would soon become our Major Employment Partner – and more so treat us and look after us like family.

Lendlease is a property and construction company with global expertise in shaping cities and creating strong and connected communities. Chief Executive Officer for Lendlease Building, Dale Connor, recognised an opportunity to partner with the JTAcademy to help influence the training and employment outcomes for young jobseekers across Australia.

“When we met with Johnathan, Academy Director Sam Ayoub and General Manager Samantha Johnson, we immediately recognised a clear alignment of objectives,” Connor said of the partnership.

“Both the Academy and Lendlease are committed to supporting the local communities in which we operate whether it is through employment, training or engagement with small to medium enterprise.

“We shook hands on it at the time agreeing Lendlease would be there for the Academy and we have been true to our word. We are proud of the work we have done together and the opportunities it has created.”

JT said the Academy was very much a start-up when the first meeting with Lendlease took place.

“The support and trust from Lendlease meant the world to myself and my team. It is a partnership that will forever remain as our very first.  Lendlease backing us was a pivotal point in our journey.  Forever grateful.

“We knew exactly what we wanted to achieve, but we also recognised that to achieve it, we needed strategic corporate partners who could help us walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk,” Thurston said.

“Samantha literally drew a mud map of the partnership using stick figures at our first brainstorming meeting with Lendlease. We have kept those drawings because they remind us of our humble beginnings and what we set out to achieve – to make a meaningful and very real difference in the lives of young Australians. 

“We have achieved a lot in just a couple of years and we could not have done that without the support of Lendlease.”

JT said the partnership with Lendlease had opened several doors to additional employment partners which would not have been accessible otherwise and they have also facilitated introductions to organisations which have become sponsors, supporters and partners.

When Lendlease added a link to its website to the JTAcademy’s job board, visitor numbers to the site went through the roof opening doors for new generations of youth to access opportunities to learn and work.

“The solid foundation we have been able to build is thanks to the generosity and support of Lendlease, and means we are now looking to launch an ambitious new youth and diversity employment program at the end of 2019 – JT2020, which I know will be a game-changer for employment,” Thurston said.

“We are excited about what we have already achieved and even more excited about our plans for the future to help more youth in more communities.”


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What’s on JT’s bucket list?

Super Bowl LinkedIn Post

When JTAcademy Managing Director, Johnathan Thurston, got a call from Major Events Company (MEC) earlier this year he knew he was in for a treat. Something exciting always happens when JT’s phone rings and this time was no different, with MEC offering JT the opportunity to achieve one big tick on his bucket list. A three day trip to the NFL Super Bowl in Miami in 2020.

“I’ve been able to do some amazing things in my life and 2019 has certainly been a time of big achievements, with a new addition to my family and some really great projects happening at the JTAcademy” Thurston said.

“I’m always telling the kids I meet to dream big and follow their passions, because with enough effort and self-belief they can achieve anything.”

Now JT gets the chance to fulfil one of his own dreams by travelling with MEC, and a select few lucky ticket holders, to host a three day NFL Super Bowl extravaganza. It’s the biggest event on the US sporting calendar and some of the hardest tickets in the world to access.

MEC is laying on an exclusive tour that would tick every box of even the most ardent sports fan. Throughout the trip there are a variety of pre-game activities, concerts, celebrity events, memorabilia and a welcome dinner hosted by JT.

“The Super Bowl definitely has a wow factor and I can’t wait to kick off 2020 by ticking this awesome event off my bucket list alongside the group of MEC Miami tour sports fans.” Thurston said.

Thurston will be hosting the three day exclusive private tour which promises to be the trip of a lifetime.

To find out more and to join JT in ticking the 2020 NFL Super Bowl off your bucket list visit MEC here.







Johnathan Thurston runs workshops at Mount Isa schools and takes part in Isa Street Festival

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As part of the Isa Street Festival, Mount Isa City Council partnered with the Johnathan Thurston Academy to deliver workshops to hundreds of local students and Indigenous leaders at two local high schools, August 6 and 7, as part of a celebration of local youth.

Australian footy legend Johnathan Thurston visited Mount Isa with staff from the JTAcademy as they deliver the JTSucceed workshop over two days at Spinifex High School and Good Shepherd High School.

The JTSucceed workshop helped to build confidence, courage, self-belief, well-being and good mental health, with cyber bullying a focus for this workshop.

The JTAcademy was founded in 2018 to help Australian youth have access to education and training to help them secure meaningful employment, and this starts with building their self-confidence, self-believe and motivation.

JT Academy’s Managing Director Johnathan Thurston said he was really thrilled about how the visit went.

“I was really excited to bring the JT Academy and our JTSucceed workshop to Mount Isa and be part of the local festivities in partnership with Mount Isa City Council,” Thurston said. “We had been really looking forward to the visit and it was great to be so warmly welcomed by the Mt Isa community and be able to talk directly with the kids about issues which impact them.”

Mount Isa City Council Mayor Joyce McCulloch said valuable lessons were shared by the JT Academy to 160 students at Spinifex Junior campus, including 20 Indigenous leaders, 118 Year 8 and Year 9 students at Good Shepherd Catholic College and 25 Flexible Learning Centre students.

“It is more important in a remote city such as Mount Isa that we talk about these issues so we can increase awareness of appropriate actions that this community can take and the support available, particularly for parents.”

JT also personally presented a signed Maroons jersey to the winner of a Facebook competition run by Mt Isa City Council.

“We are headed to Balonne in late August to deliver programs to students there at the invitation of Balonne Shire Council,” Thurston added.

“And I can’t wait!”


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If you are interested in having the JTAcademy deliver tailored programs to your school, community or staff, register your interest at the Academy here:



Kids from remote Yarrabah and Kowanyama communities join the JTBelieve camp

JT Academy Cairns

Education Today ran a story in July about a group of students from Yarrabah and Kowanyama who successfully applied to attend the JTBelieve camp in Cairns with Johnathan Thurston.

The 20 students were chosen from those who successfully completed the JTBelieve program during the school semester, which meant have a great attendance at school and being respectful of the community both in and outside of school.

“The JTBelieve program was designed to help kids improve their self-belief, confidence and courage in their future abilities and opportunities,” Thurston said in the story.

“We believe that by providing programs which help build up the self-belief, confidence, courage and skillsets of youth, they are being given the chance to make decisions about their future based on what they want and what they believe they can achieve.”

 To read the full story click here.