Johnathan Thurston ahead of the 2017 NRL All Stars game.

Thurston calls for an Australia Day 'national chat'

North Queensland Cowboys and Australian star Johnathan Thurston believes it is time to have a "national chat" about the timing of Australia Day.

The 34-year-old spoke emotionally to NRL.com, encouraging his fellow Australians to look into the meaning surrounding the day and the negative feelings it evokes among many in Indigenous communities.

"I think we need to have a national chat about it, and I think Australians need to be educated on why some Indigenous Australians, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, aren't fans of or aren't associated with January 26," he said.

"I think Australians need to be educated on why they feel that way and know the actual history about our country. 

"I think once people do know the history of our country and where our culture has been and where our culture has come from today, a lot of people would have a different view on it.

"Once we can have that chat and move forward and move forward as one nation and one country."

On Thursday night Thurston will attend the Australian of the Year awards ceremony in Canberra, where he is one of eight finalists nominated for the prestigious award.

Thurston's inclusion on the shortlist for the Australian of the Year award came after he was named Queensland's Australian of the Year in November.

"Very humbling to receive that award," he said.

The two-time Telstra Premiership winner was rewarded for his work mentoring Indigenous youth.

A long-term advocate for education among all young Australians, Thurston hopes increased opportunity leads to a more harmonious society.

"Inclusive, you know, I want everyone to be inclusive."

ABC will broadcast the awards on Thursday night from 7.30pm.