First Indigenous sportswoman to represent Australia dies

SYDNEY: The first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia in sport was hailed on Monday for her “groundbreaking contribution” to cricket after dying aged 90.

Faith Thomas 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.

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.

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 employed Aboriginal 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.”

Only a handful of Aboriginal 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.

The Adelaide Strikers honour her by playing for the Faith Thomas Trophy every year in the Women’s Big Bash League.

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