Following her passing on Monday at the age of 90, the first Aboriginal athlete to represent Australia in a competitive sport was praised for her “groundbreaking contribution” to cricket.
Faith Thomas stepped out 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 appear for any Australian sports team, according to Cricket Australia.
Her career in cricket began when a coworker asked her to play in an Adelaide club game. She was a fearsome fast bowler who had previously trained as a nurse before discovering that women played organised cricket.
After only three games, Thomas was chosen to play for South Australia, and the following year, she took part in her first Test.
The prospect of a lengthy sea voyage discouraged Thomas from accepting the invitation to tour England and New Zealand, so she instead committed herself to nursing, becoming one of the first Aboriginal nurses to be employed.
Nick Hockley, the head of Cricket Australia, praised her “wonderful and ground-breaking contribution to cricket and the community” after she passed away on Saturday.
For everyone who was fortunate enough to know her or who was touched by her many accomplishments, he continued, “Today is a very sad day.”
“Faith left an indelible mark on the game as the first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia in Test cricket, inspiring those who came after her.”
The most successful Aboriginal cricketer to ever play in a Test match is Jason Gillespie. Scott Boland and Ashleigh Gardner are some more examples.
In recognition of outstanding service or accomplishment, Thomas received the Order of Australia in 2009.
By competing for the Faith Thomas Trophy in the Women’s Big Bash League each year, the Adelaide Strikers pay tribute to her.