Have you heard of Faith Thomas AM (née Coultard)?
The Adnyamathanha woman who was born at the Nepabunna Aboriginal Mission in 1933 to an Aboriginal mother and German father, was in the first group of Aboriginal nurses to graduate from the Royal Adelaide Hospital in the 1950’s, alongside her friend from Colebrook Home where she had grown up, Lowitja O’Donoghue. Faith nursed in Aboriginal communities right across regional and remote South Australia in the 1960’s and 70’s.
But in addition to her nursing career, Faith was the first Aboriginal woman to play test cricket for Australia in 1958, and the first Aboriginal person to represent Australia in any sport when she played for the Australian national team in an international match against England.
“She did that years before Cathy Freeman lit the torch at the Sydney Olympics, or before Ash Barty won the French Open. Someone like Faith Thomas is a real trailblazer,” said Tyson Baird, who’s co-producing a new documentary about her life, alongside film and media company Ninti Media, and is planning to write a biography of her life.
Tyson first bonded with Faith over a shared love of cricket while working as an Occupational Therapist in her hometown of Port Augusta.
“She showed me her baggy green cap and we talked about cricket… one coffee led to many coffees and we became friends. She had so many stories not just about cricket that I said to her one day ‘Aunty Faith, is anyone going to write these stories down? Because the stories you’re telling me are fascinating; they need to be told and they need to be remembered’. She said ‘No, no, no, why would anyone want to do that’ and I basically said to her, ‘well I’d love to record them so they can be remembered by your family and Australia in general’.”
So he set about recording her stories, not really knowing where it would go at first. After mentioning Aunty Faith to an old schoolmate who ran Ninti Media, things took a turn and they began to collaborate to tell her story.
Over the 15 months since, the two have managed to interview both the other Aboriginal people to play test cricket for Australia; Jason Gillespie and Ashleigh Gardner, whom they travelled to Melbourne to interview at the Women’s World Cup last year, just before COVID-19 hit. They’ve also interviewed Major Moogy Sumner about his memories of Faith nursing in the Raukkan community when he was very young.
Late in 2020, NITV confirmed funding through their “Our Stories” series to complete the documentary. It will be available to view on NITV’s website soon.
Images: Faith Thomas AM, courtesy of Tyson Baird and Nintu Media