Vale: Anne Phelan

Veteran Australian actress, best known for Prisoner and Winners & Losers, has died.

Veteran Australian actress Anne Phelan, best known for Prisoner and Winners & Losers, has died, aged 71.

Showbiz colleagues were sharing the news yesterday on social media.

Phelan enjoyed a long career on stage and screen with TV roles from the 1970s in such shows as Ryan, Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police and 4 years on Bellbird as Kate Ashwood. Soaps including Skyways, Holiday Island, A Country Practice, Sons & Daughters and Carson’s Law all followed.

She received two Television Society of Australia Awards for 124 episodes as Myra Desmond in Prisoner. Myra was the 2nd longest running Top Dog after Bea Smith. Phelan, who recently attended the 40th anniversary cast reunion, originally appeared in the show in bit parts as a prison officer and as a different inmate.

For Something in the Air she played Monica Taylor, and she had 3 years on Winners & Losers as grandma Dot Gross, mother of Francis Greenslade’s Brian.

There were many other credits including The Harp in the South, The Fast Lane, Mother & Son, GP, Inside Running, Skirts, Col’n Carpenter, Snowy River: The McGregor Saga, Law of the Land, Good Guys Bad Guys, Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies, Blue Heelers, The Micallef Program, Thunderstone, Marshall Law, Dogwoman, Marshall Law, The Librarians, Neighbours, and Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane.

Film credits included The Devil’s Playground, Hard Knocks, The Craic & Charlie & Boots. She also enjoyed a prolific stage career with the likes of St Martins Theatre Co., Melbourne Theatre Co., Playbox Theatre, State Theatre Co. of SA, Black Swan, Queensland Theatre Co., Deckchair Theatre, La Mama and Sydney Theatre Co.

Phelan was passionate about social causes, becoming Patron of Positive Women (Victoria), including when HIV / AIDS was considered taboo, and is a member of Actors For Refugees. In 2007 she received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for service to the arts as an actress, and to the community, particularly through support for women living with the HIV virus and for asylum seekers and refugees. In 2016 she also received the Equity Lifetime Achievement Award.

50 years after giving up her daughter for adoption -when she was a pregnant 16 year old- she was reunited wth her daughter Sandra.

In 2012 she told TV Tonight, “We thought Something in the Air would run for 10 years, and I was quite happy to be in it for 10 years and Channel 2 axed it. Family and Friends a long, long time ago, same thing. Came to work one morning, got out of the car and someone said ‘Don’t worry about getting out of the car, we’ve been axed.’

“Never expect anything in this industry because it can turn the other way.

“Unless I’m enjoying the job, I don’t care how fabulous the role is or how brilliant the series is. If I’m not enjoying myself, forget it.”

18 Responses

  1. I’m devastated to read your news – I worked with Annie and loved her dearly. She was incredibly funny, a terrific actress – and a stunning human being. I am incredibly saddened and wish that I had kept in touch over the last few years. Vale Annie – all my love to speed you on your way.

  2. Grew up with Anne Phelan as Myra, firstly as a child in the 80s watching Prisoner with my parents (who surprisingly let a 7 year old watch something rated ‘AO’) and then as a teenager with my year 12 classmates who would wake at 4am to watch the Channel 10 repeats. Met her a few times at Prisoner events / reunions. Great actress and a great sense of humour. RIP.

  3. One of the best ‘top dogs’ has left the prison! Anne had a wonderful career. Salt of the earth woman type. Strong, spirited and hearty. Myra Desmond and her character arc left an indelible impression on this viewer. Her final moment during The Ballinger breakout was devastating. Anne will always be fondly remembered.

  4. Thanks for your tribute David to such an amazing actress that millions have watched over the years.
    Sadly it took SMH and the Age a while to even get wind of the story and last time I checked there was no mention on News Corp or the ABC.
    When you consider the impact she has had, even her time as Myra, it unforgivable some websites and media outlets give more space to reality “stars” than a legend of Australian TV. #RIPAnnePhelan

  5. I was aware of Anne through her role in Prisoner but I was most impressed by her work in Harp In The South and Poor Man’s Orange in which she captured the generation of women of that time perfectly. Her performance was reminiscent of the way my own Grandmother faced life and carried herself.

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