My Place: Anne Phelan

Anne Phelan and Tilly. Picture: Shawn Smits.

By Jessica Micallef

Anne Phelan is no stranger to our screens, having featured in Winners and Losers and Prisoner. The Romsey resident chats with Jessica Micallef about her acting career and her favourite aspects of the country life.

What is your connection to Sunbury and the Macedon Ranges?

I moved to Romsey in 1982 so it’s been 37 years. I needed somewhere I could commute to Melbourne because most of my work is in the city. Some friends of mine had moved to Lancefield and I was bringing mum up to have lunch in 1981 and I stopped at the real estate agent. Romsey’s the ideal distance from Melbourne. You’re still in the country but in 50 minutes you’re on Flemington Road.

What are some of the best things about Romsey?

I think even though it’s grown, and I knew it had to grow because it was so close, travel wise, to Melbourne, it’s still got the country town feel. You don’t pop up the street to get a carton of milk and think you’re going to be away for 10 minutes because you’re going to be chatting to people. I’ve always felt very comfortable here and of course up in the ranges it’s just beautiful.

What are you passionate about?

I’ve always been very involved with the union, Actors Equity. And often through the union, I was very involved with the Patron of Positive Women Victoria which is a support group for women living with HIV. And coming from the entertainment industry, HIV and Aids hit us very early on and very quickly. I was also one of the early members of Actors for Refugees which was a group of actors … and what we actually did was tell the stories of the asylum seekers in their words.

Tell me a bit about your acting career.

I left school early when I was 15. I played a lot of sport when I was a teenager and I was the captain of the badminton team in West Melbourne. I got a phone call from a bloke one night and he said he was from an amateur musical company and they used the same hall that we played badminton in. He wanted an extra night and he rang the parish priest – it was a church hall – and said, ‘can we have an extra night’ and the priest said, ‘you better ring Anne Phelan’. I said ‘no that’s fine’ and he said ‘Phelan, are you in any relation to Barry and Peter’ and I said, ‘yes they’re my older brothers’. He said ‘I went to school with them … and if you’re a Phelan you can sing and we need singers’. So I joined the backrow of the chorus and then I just went along with many amateur groups and it built up to lead roles in musicals. Then I had a call from someone who said, ‘do you want to do a play and get paid for it’. I was 21 then. I just sort of fell in.

What has been your favourite role to play?

There’s no one. There are some special ones. Certainly The Harp In The South and Poor Man’s Orange will be up there because they were from beautiful books and they were beautifully done. Sometimes it’s the little unknown ones you remember the most.

How did it feel to win eight Best Actress Awards?

Wonderful. I find people who knock awards have never won one because it is quite thrilling.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

That I’ve worked at four pubs in the Macedon Ranges behind the bar. So we’re talking 30 years ago and because actors are often out of work … I’ve got no money, that might surprise people.

If you could change one thing about the area what would it be?

That’s a hard one. I think there’s been some hideous planning mistakes and allowing certain types of buildings to be built. The only things I would change is to get the pub open. We’re a town without a pub which us unheard of and un-Australian.