Thomas, who has died aged 90, hailed for her ‘groundbreaking contribution’ to cricket.
The first Indigenous woman to represent Australia in sport has been hailed for her “groundbreaking contribution” to cricket after dying aged 90.
Faith Thomas (nee Coulthard) padded up against England in 1958 in Melbourne to become the first Indigenous woman to play a Test match for Australia and in the process, the first to feature for any Australian sports team, Cricket Australia said on Monday.
A fearsome fast bowler, she trained as a nurse before learning that women played organised cricket, with her career beginning when she was invited by a colleague to participate in a club game in Adelaide.
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After just three games, Thomas was selected to represent South Australia and the following year played her first Test.
She was chosen to tour England and New Zealand, but deterred by the prospect of a long sea voyage, Thomas instead dedicated herself to nursing, becoming one of the first Indigenous nurses.
She passed away on Saturday with Cricket Australia chief Nick Hockley hailing her “wonderful and groundbreaking contribution to cricket and the community”.
“This is a very sad day for all those fortunate to have known her or who were touched by her many accomplishments,” he added.
“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.”
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In a tribute on Twitter, Hannah Darlington, an Indigenous cricketer playing for Sydney Thunder, hailed Thomas as a “true pioneer”.
The woman who paved the way for indigenous cricketers like myself to have the dream of playing cricket for Australia. A true pioneer who will be greatly missed ❤️ https://t.co/sYuoLUzegl
— Hannah Darlington (@HDarlington28) April 17, 2023
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Cricket journalist and broadcaster Melinda Farrell, who has interviewed Thomas, said she was “an absolute cracker, a real force of nature” who loved to tell stories.
So sad to hear of the passing of Faith Thomas. I was lucky enough to interview her a couple of times. She was an absolute cracker, a real force of nature. She loved to tell of the time in 1958 when she bowled England’s captain & sent the stump flying over the keeper’s head. 1/2
— Melinda Farrell (@melindafarrell) April 17, 2023
Born to an Indigenous mother and a German father in 1933, Thomas was brought by her mother to be raised at Colebrook Home for Aboriginal Children in Quorn, southern Australia.
As a child she played cricket on dirt tracks, often using improvised bats made from wood and a rock for a ball. She joked that her blistering pace came from throwing rocks at galahs as a child.
She played her last club cricket game in the early 1960s as she focused on her work as a nurse and a midwife in remote and poor communities.
“Faith Thomas’s story is as inspiring as it is incredible,” South Australian Cricket Association President William Rayner said.
“A leader across medicine, sport, reconciliation and so much more, Aunty Faith created footprints that others have had the opportunity to follow in the decades since. A brilliantly unique and successful cricketer, Aunty Faith’s journey was never simply about personal achievement – instead she always sought ways to improve the lives of others.”
Only four Indigenous cricketers have ever played Test cricket, with Jason Gillespie the most successful. Others include Scott Boland and Ashleigh Gardner.
Thomas was awarded the Order of Australia, for outstanding service or achievement, in 2009 and was retrospectively awarded a baggy green cap as the 48th Australian woman to play Test cricket.
The Adelaide Strikers honour her by playing for the Faith Thomas Trophy every year in the Women’s Big Bash League. She was also recognised in Adelaide Oval’s Avenue of Honour as a legend of the game.