Photo Credit: South Australian Cricket Association
South Australia is today mourning the loss of Aunty Faith Thomas, a truly remarkable pioneer in several fields, including becoming the first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia on the sporting stage, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 90.
SACA has been granted permission to use Faith Thomas’ name and image.
Born in 1933 in Nepabunna, Aunty Faith lived an extraordinary life, becoming one of the first Aboriginal college graduates in the country, one of the first nurses and an endlessly inspiring advocate for positive societal change.
Instrumental in bringing the plight of Aboriginal Australians to the forefront, Aunty Faith tirelessly illuminated the struggles faced by the world’s oldest civilisation. On average during her time as a nurse, Aboriginal people lived 20 years less than the rest of the population and were not even counted as citizens until Aunty Faith had celebrated her 37th birthday.
Living out of her car, Aunty Faith travelled the country providing care to Aboriginal Australian’s, with the full impact of her selfless efforts unable to be measured. Well after her retirement from the medical profession, Aunty Faith fought strongly for the rights of Aboriginal peoples and received an Order of Australia in 2019 in honour of a life spent working for the betterment of others.
The story of how Australia’s first female Indigenous international sportsperson took up cricket is a beautiful illustration of the determined, resolute character that has inspired so many. While still very young, Aunty Faith was struck by a cricket ball, causing her to burst into tears as the pain coursed through her. In response, she thought it best to get a bat so that next time she was ready. Thus, a Test cricketer was born.
Quickly becoming the fastest female bowler of her time, Aunty Faith was selected for tours of England and New Zealand but choose not to travel due to the huge amounts of time it would mean being away from home. She would not be denied that baggy green however, playing in an Ashes Test Match in Melbourne in 1958. Her baggy green, number 48, was a prized possession that she carried around with her to this day.
Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Cricket Advisory Committee of South Australia and Founder of the Aboriginal Sports Hall of Fame Federation, not to mention owner of the remarkable figures of six wickets for no runs against Adelaide Teachers College early in her career, Aunty Faith’s legacy is beautifully represented in Adelaide Oval’s Avenue of Honour alongside other greats of the game.
Each year, the Adelaide Strikers play for the Faith Thomas Trophy in the WBBL, a beautiful work of art highlighted by Aboriginal wooden artefacts that is presented to the winning team during First Nations Round.
A true trailblazer in women’s sport, and a remarkable person who has led a full, adventurous and selfless life, Aunty Faith reminds us that one person can change the world, one person can make a difference and a society can be better if we fight for what is right and listen and learn with open hearts and minds.
SACA President William Rayner said that Aunty Faith’s impact on South Australia and beyond is impossible to measure.
“Faith Thomas’ story is as inspiring as it is incredible. 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,” Rayner said.
“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.
“Aunty Faith will be greatly missed, but such is the impact she has had on this country, she will forever be remembered and honoured for the way she lived her life. On behalf of the South Australian Cricket Association, I offer sincerest condolences to all those lucky enough to know and love Aunty Faith.”