Minister for Sport and Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development Mark Arbib today paid tribute to Australian sporting hero and Indigenous role model Arthur ‘Artie’ Beetson.
Beetson, who was an Australian Rugby League legend and an inspirational role model to generations of Indigenous Australians, died at the Gold Coast this morning.
Artie represented Queensland and Australia from 1964 to 1981 and was the first Indigenous Australian to captain any Australian sport. He also captained Queensland in the first State of Origin in 1980.
Senator Arbib said Artie was one of his childhood heroes and Australia had today lost a legend.
“My first rugby league sporting memories are Artie playing with Easts and the joy he gave us with the 1974 and ‘75 Grand Final victories,” Senator Arbib said.
“Artie was a vital part of the Roosters’ success in the 1970s and he was rewarded for this excellence wining the 1975 NSW Sports Star of the year.
“In 2004 he was recognised officially as a legend of the game by being named as the seventh post war Immortal by the NRL.”
Senator Arbib said Artie would also be fondly remembered for the work he did for Indigenous Australians during and after his career.
“Artie was an inspirational role model who dedicated his post-playing career to ensuring Indigenous Australians were given the best opportunities available,” Senator Arbib said.
“As part of the Former Origin Greats (FOGs) Artie did invaluable work with local Indigenous communities to encourage kids to stay in school, work hard and go onto to further education, training or employment.
“At every FOGs expo Artie attended the kids would run up to him asking for photos, autographs and advice and Artie always obliged.
“He gave kids the message that they could achieve anything they set their minds to by staying at school and getting a good education.
“He was a true legend of the game and a fantastic bloke and his sudden passing is a huge loss for Australia.
“On behalf of the Government I express my sincere condolences to Artie’s family and friends during this very sad time.”