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Jackie Woodburne article

She plays one of TV's favourite mums but...

Jackie hasn't found Mr Right in real life

The Weekly News February 21st 1998

As Neighbours' Susan Kennedy, Jackie Woodburne presents the perfect image of modern-day marriage and motherhood.

A respected teacher at Erinsborough High and devoted wife to husband Dr Carl, you get the feeling she'd also fight like a tigress if her much-loved sons Mal and Billy or daughter Libby were ever in danger.

Yet Jackie's own life couldn't be more different to Susan's. She's never been marriedd, doesn't have children, and when she takes off her make-up after a day at the Neighbours' studio she goes home to an empty flat.

"Unlike Susan, I'm not surrounded by the happy chaos of family life," said Jackie.


"I don't have a family of my own and I'm not in a relationship. But that doesn't mean I'm frustrated or resentful about the way my life has turned out.

In fact, I think I'm very lucky. I have a job doing something I love, which to me is a blessing. I spend my working life with my Neighbours family, all of whom I adore.

"It's like being a real parent, except at the end of the day, I can go home and leave someone else to worry about their teenage anxieties. I've got the best of both worlds.

"In any case, I don't think I'm over the hill just yet. I could still meet someone and find the perfect relationship. In the meantime, I'm perfectly content."

Dark-haired Jackie thought she'd met the man of her dreams three times, but each relationship fell apart. "Maybe my Mr Right is out there somewhere," she said.

"When you meet someone special, you think they're going to be the great love of your life. But then you split up and get over it, so you realise they probably weren't."

Jackie admitted there have been times when she's regretted not having children.

"It comes and goes in waves - sometimes I think it would be great and other times I'm thankful I don't have any," she said.

"I don't discount the possibility of having children absolutely, although I realise that at 40, I don't have much time left."

The convincing relationship on screen between Jackie and her Neighbours' husband, played by Alan Fletcher, can be put down to a natural affinity in real life.

"I've worked before with Alan and we have a great rapport," she said.

"As for my three 'children', I felt maternal towards them as soon as I saw them. We laugh every day - it's a pleasure to be in their company."


Jackie may be happy and successful in her chosen profession now, but she sometimes looks back to the time when she thought she'd never have the courage to become an actress.

"Right through my teenage years at school in Melbourne, I had this secret yearning to act, but I was always too shy to join the school drama class," she said.

"I wanted to get up there on stage, but I was too self-conscious to ry. I thought it would be an unrealised dream."

But at 19, a year spent travelling round the world with a backpack gave her the courage she needed.

"Having to fend for myself gave my confidence a boost," she said. "When I got back home I said to myself, 'Right girl, put your money where your mouth is and see what you can do.'"

Jackie had left it a bit late in the year to audition for drama college, so she had to beg the dean of Melbourne's National Theatre School to take her on.

"I just harassed her into accepting me," she recalled. "No-one was more gobsmacked than me when she said 'yes.'"

Jackie graduated after three years and walked straight into the leading role of Josie in a mini series called Outbreak of Love, set in the early 1900s.

But it's as Susan Kennedy in Neighbours, a role she's played for three years, that Jackie made her name.

She said, "I get a lot of letters from young Neighbours' fans saying what a great mum Susan is - so I guess she must be doing something right! As far as I'm concerned, I'm happy to go on playing her as long as I'm wanted."

There's a lilt in Jackie's voice that may not be obvious when she's on screen, but that comes across away from the cameras.

It stems from her Northern Irish background.

Born in Carrickfergus, near Belfast, she spent her first three years in Whitehead, on the Antrim coast, where her dad, Jim, was in the Royal Ulster constabulary.

"When I was three, my parents emigrated to Australia with me and my two elder brothers John and Stephen," she said.

"When we got to Australia, because of various local rules and regulations, my dad was unable to join the police force, which he assumed he'd be able to do, so they had a pretty rough time for a while.

"Dad ended up supporting the family by working as a fitter and turner, a tea taster, a door hanger and eventually by managing a metal factory. Mum did odd jobs when she could, but they're both retired now.

"Funnily enough, my brother John was the one who joined the Australian police - he's now a chief inspector. Stephen's a school headmaster, so as an actor, I suppose that makes me the black sheep of the family!"