Photo Credit: South Australian Cricket Association
The theme of 2023’s National Reconciliation Week is ‘Be a Voice for Generations’ and the late Aunty Faith Thomas sums that up better than most.
SACA staff learned all about the impact Aunty Faith had throughout her 90 years of life at a celebration of her incredible journey during National Reconciliation Week.
As part of the celebration, staff watched the SBS documentary Before Her Time, which tells the story of Aunty Faith and features footage of the day she received her well-earned Order of Australia Medal in 2019 for services to cricket and tireless dedication to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Tyson Baird, a family friend of Aunty Faith and the producer of the documentary, joined SACA staff for the viewing and gave his insights into a wonderful lady who did so much for the betterment of others.
“I literally bumped into her at the Health Service in Port Augusta and sat down with her and had a bit of a yarn and just asked her about cricket,” Tyson said of meeting Aunty Faith.
“She’s a storyteller and she loves talking about anything, but she loved talking about cricket so she said ‘come back to my house and I’ll show you my Baggy Green!’
“You don’t pass up an offer like that, so I went and had a cup of coffee with her and one coffee led to many, many, many, many coffees on her back porch chatting.
“I knew a touch about her cricket, but I quickly realised there was so much more to her story and I wanted to get it out there.”
As a big cricket fan, it was great fun for Tyson to film at Junction Oval – where Aunty Faith became the first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia in any sport when she played a Test Match against England in 1958 – and interview current Indigenous Australian cricketer Ashleigh Gardner, before finding footage of the 1958 Ashes Test in the MCC Library.
However, there is so much more to the Aunty Faith story than her cricketing prowess.
“She loved celebrating her cricket, but absolutely she thought that cricket was only one part of her life and she was probably more proud of her nursing side of life,” Tyson said.
“Being one of the first Aboriginal nurses in South Australia and all the battles she had to overcome to get into that position and then travel around working in nursing for decades and decades.
“She just had her fingers in every pie – even things like she contributed to the Mulligan Report, which is a huge national report into people who have been in institutionalised care – she would have brought an amazing perspective to that.
“The Aboriginal Sports Foundation, Aboriginal legal rights – she was just involved with so many things and with so many different changemakers.”
Examples like that are the perfect example of Aunty Faith being a Voice for Generations.
“She was exactly that,” Tyson said.
“Aunty Faith would go to the Gallery at Parliament House and she knew Don Dunstan [former South Australian Premier] personally.
“He was very progressive bringing forward legislation about Aboriginal issues and he would sit in the Gallery and he would look up to her and they’d have a little wave.
“She was absolutely a voice to government, and we need to hear these stories and we need different perspectives.”
In the documentary, Aunty Faith talks about her love of Ngangkari’s – traditional healers who she worked closely with during her long nursing career.
Tyson shared one of his favourite stories about Aunty Faith with the SACA staff, which featured her beloved Ngangkari’s and no doubt her trademark cheeky grin.
“She had a dancing incident at Lyndhurst Pub, where she broke her arm,” Tyson explained with a smile.
“The western doctor said you got to put that into cast, it’s clearly broken and you can’t do anything with it for six weeks.
“She thought, ‘no, I’m not having this’, so she went to the Ngangkari who was there and said ‘what do you reckon about this arm?’
“He looked at it, told her to take the cast off and then he did something with her arm.
“She woke up the next day and she claims it was totally fine! So that’s why she had a special love for the Ngangkari’s.”
SACA thanks Tyson for joining us for National Reconciliation Week and sharing some wonderful insights into the late Aunty Faith.
Watch the full Before Her Time documentary about Aunty Faith here.