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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Arthur Beetson, 1968 (printed 2019)

Ern McQuillan

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image: 40.5 cm x 29.5 cm)

Arthur ‘Artie’ Beetson OAM (1945–2011), rugby league legend, was the first Indigenous Australian to captain a major national sporting team and is counted among the game’s best ever forwards. Beetson’s mother was a member of the Stolen Generations and had grown up on the Cherbourg Mission before moving to Buderim and then Roma, where Beetson was born. He started playing rugby league at age six, left school at sixteen and at nineteen moved to Brisbane to play first grade for Redcliffe. In 1965, when Redcliffe won the Brisbane premiership, he was named the club’s player of the year and was soon afterwards signed to play for Balmain in the Sydney competition. He earned Kangaroos selection for the first time in 1966, and went on to captain Australia against France in 1973, against Great Britain in 1974, and for the Kangaroos’ successful World Series campaign of 1975. Meanwhile, having left Balmain, he led Eastern Suburbs to the premierships of 1974 and 1975. He was the NSW Rugby League player of the year in 1976, and the Rugby League Week player of the year for 1974. He joined the Parramatta Eels in 1979 and in 1980 captained Queensland to victory in the inaugural State or Origin series. Returning to Brisbane, he became captain-coach at Redcliffe and was also appointed coach of the Queensland state team, who won the State of Origin three years straight from 1982 and again in 1989. Beetson served a short stint as coach of the Kangaroos in 1983, and in the 1980s and 1990s he coached Eastern Suburbs and the Cronulla Sharks while also serving as a selector and recruitment officer. He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1989. A 1992 poll rated him at sixteen in the game’s top 100 players; the NRL named him an Immortal in 2003; and in 2008, he was named in the Australian and the Queensland Team of the Century. In all, he notched up 438 first class rugby league fixtures at club, state and international level, despite his playing career being marred at times by injury, fluctuating weight and fitness, and disciplinary issues. In 2010 the ARTIE Academy (Achieving Results Through Indigenous Education) was founded in Beetson’s honour; and following his passing in December 2011 his sons established the Arthur Beetson Foundation which, among other initiatives, secures scholarships for Indigenous students to leading Brisbane schools. The teams in the annual Indigenous All Stars rugby league match compete for the Arthur Beetson Trophy.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2019
© Michael McQuillan's Classic Photographs

Accession number: 2019.63

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Ern McQuillan (age 42 in 1968)

Arthur '. Beetson OAM (age 23 in 1968)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan

Hop, skip, shoot

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

Former NPG Deputy Director, Simon Elliott talks with Ern McQuillan about his life and career as a sports photographer.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.