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Rugby League legend to join new look Queensland tourism board

03 August 2018

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has today announced Rugby league legend Johnathan Thurston will join the board of Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ).

Thurston is one of five new board members for TEQ, with each offering an invaluable skillset and knowledge of the industry, the Premier said.

Brett Godfrey will continue as chair of TEQ, while two of the existing members, James Dixon and Karen Hanna Miller will return for a second consecutive term, with Cairns-based Mr Dixon becoming Deputy Chair. Department of Innovation, Tourism Industry Development and the Commonwealth Games Director General Damien Walker also continues on the Board.

Joining them will be Thurston, Nancy Bamaga, Chris Mills, Brenda LaPorte and Sarah Kelly.

“This Board has the skills and experience to take tourism and events in Queensland to the next level,” the Premier said.

“JT is a much-loved Queenslander, an influencer and a leader both on and off the field. I am looking forward to hearing his advice and insights as to how we can grow an industry that is vital to regional communities.

“Combined, these appointments have strong skills in strategic marketing, Indigenous business and culture, major sporting and cultural events, aviation, risk and audit and knowledge of the Asian market.

“There is also strong regional representation, from JT in Townsville, to having a new Deputy Chair from Cairns in James Dixon, Chris Mills from the Gold Coast and Brenda LaPorte from the Sunshine Coast.”

Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said in addition to his record as a sporting great, Johnathan Thurston also brought experience in regional aviation and a unique understanding of indigenous culture through his work as a community leader.

“Not only is JT one of the best footballers in history, he’s a Queensland icon,” Ms Jones said.

“It makes sense to have JT on the TEQ board.

“Major events help to drive visitors to our state and are an important part of our strategy to create more tourism jobs in Queensland.

“JT has an intimate knowledge of major events and will help to guide our strategy in regional Queensland.”

In addition to his record as a sporting great, Johnathan Thurston also brought experience in regional aviation and a unique understanding of indigenous culture through his work as a community leader.

“Throughout my professional career, I’ve travelled enough to know that our tourism offering and lifestyle is something to be celebrated,” Thurston said.

“Living in regional Queensland, I also know and understand how important events are to our communities, not only attracting visitors but also providing a great source of pride.

“As a proud Queenslander, I am really looking forward to working with the Tourism and Events Queensland board to showcase what’s great about our state to a national and international audience.”


Welcoming the appointments, TEQ Chair Brett Godfrey said he was delighted to chair a Board of such high-calibre and well-respected professionals in their fields.

“These appointments represent tremendous depth and diversity which will ensure that we continue to pursue our core objective of growing tourism and events in Queensland.

“Our job is to create further momentum and deliver real and sustainable benefits – whether that’s through marketing, events, delivering the experiences consumers want or growing inbound markets through aviation.”

The new board takes effect as of August 3.

Brett Godfrey (Chair) - a 25-year career in the aviation industry, initially holding senior finance positions in small airlines, moving to flag carriers and culminating in conceptualising, establishing and leading, Virgin Australia for its first 10 years.

James Dixon (Deputy Chair) - co-founded Down Under Tours Australia in 1990 and has extensive industry experience and background in operations, particularly in Cairns and Tropical North Queensland.

Johnathan Thurston – In addition to his record as a professional rugby league player, he is a shareholder of Collings Aviation Holdings and has been awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission Medal for his work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.

Brenda LaPorte – served as General Manager – Strategy, Planning and Workforce for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and is currently a Non-Executive Director on the board of Athletics Australia. She has extensive experience in the business of sport and worked on the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Nancy Bamaga – is the founder and Director of Black Drum Productions working with government, business and the community sector to deliver a wide range of cultural events. She has extensive knowledge and experience in Indigenous community cultural development, and the retailing of Indigenous art and craft.

Chris Mills – CEO of Queensland Airports Limited with more than 25-years experience in diverse industries including tourism, leisure, retail, finance and property planning and development.

Sarah Kelly – an Associate Professor of Marketing and Law at the University of Queensland, Deputy Chair of the Brisbane Lions AFL Club and an experienced consultant in sports, governance and marketing.

Karen Hanna Miller
- 22-year broadcast media career and a leader in television and commercial production. She has been the driving force behind television shows including the Great South East, Queensland Weekender, Creek to Coast, Broncos Insider, Maroon Zone, and Brisbane’s annual LIVE spectacular, Riverfire.

Damien Walker – Director General of the Department of Innovation, Tourism Industry Development and the Commonwealth Games.