Melbourne: The Australian cricket community is mourning the loss of Faith Thomas, the first Aboriginal woman to play Test cricket for Australia, who passed away at the age of 90.
Thomas (nee Coulthard) played her groundbreaking Test match for Australia against England at Melbourne’s Junction Oval in February 1958, when she became the first Aboriginal woman to play for any Australian sports team.
Improvised games on dirt roads
She was a survivor of the Stolen Generations and was raised at Colebrook Home in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, where as a child she played improvised cricket games on dirt roads using homemade bats and a rock if there was no ball.
A fearsome fast bowler, Faith would often joke that her speed was the result of “chucking stones at Galahs” and that she was “still the fastest woman bowler ever”. It was only after training as a nurse that Faith learned that women played organised cricket, and her career began when she was invited by a colleague to participate in a club game in Adelaide.
After just three games, Faith was selected to represent South Australia and the following year played Test cricket for Australia. She was then chosen to tour England and New Zealand. Instead, deterred by the prospect of a long trip by sea, she dedicated herself to her nursing career.
“Faith Thomas made a wonderful and groundbreaking contribution to cricket and the community, and this is a very sad day for all those fortunate to have known her or who were touched by her many accomplishments.”
“As the first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia in Test cricket, Faith was an inspiration to those who have followed and she leaves an indelible mark on the game,” said Nick Hockley, Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer, in an official statement.
In 2019, she was awarded the Order of Australia for her services to cricket and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. She has also been an inspiration to emerging Aboriginal cricketers, with the Adelaide Strikers honouring Faith by playing for the Faith Thomas Trophy every year in the WBBL.
“Faith’s work in the community in many roles including as a nurse and midwife was also immense, and the care and compassion she displayed for the many people she helped was truly remarkable.”
“On behalf of everyone across Australian Cricket, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Faith’s family, friends, teammates and all those who have benefited from her vast contribution to Australian life,” added Hockley.
As one of the first Aboriginal nurses in South Australia, and the first employed as a public servant, Faith had a profound impact on thousands of patients including during her work as a patrol nurse in Aboriginal communities.