Deborah Mailman

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Deborah Mailman
Deborah Mailman, August 2012.jpg
Mailman at The Sapphires Australian Premiere in August 2012.
Born (1972-07-14) 14 July 1972 (age 42)
Mount Isa, Queensland
Occupation Actress
Partner(s) Matthew Coonan
Children Henry Coonan (2007)
Oliver Coonan (2010)
Mailman's plaque at the Australian Film Walk of Fame, Ritz Cinema, Randwick, Sydney

Deborah Mailman (born 14 July 1972) is an Australian television and film actress. She was the first Aboriginal actress to win the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She is well known for having played the character "Kelly" on successful Australian television series, The Secret Life of Us. She is also well known for her current role as Cherie in the successful Australian drama series Offspring.

Early life[edit]

Mailman grew up in Mount Isa in north-west Queensland. She is one of five children born to Wally Mailman, a famous rodeo rider and horseman, and Jane (Heeni) Mailman, the daughter of a preacher and talented musician. She has both Indigenous Australian (Bidjara) and Māori (Ngati Porou and Te Arawa) heritage. In 1992 she graduated from Queensland University of Technology Academy of the Arts with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Performing Arts. Since then she has worked extensively in Australian film, television and theater as well as many contributions overseas.[1] She played the role of Kate in a La Boite Theatre production of Shakespeare's 'The Taming of the Shrew' in 1994.[2]


In 1998, Mailman won her first AFI win, was for playing the character "Nona", in the Australian independent film Radiance. From here she has since become one of Australia's most prominent local actors especially through her lead role on The Secret Life of Us, a role for which she was twice awarded Most Outstanding Actress In A Drama Series at the Logies (2002 and 2004). She stayed during the shows entire duration (2001–2006).

She then took part in a four-part television documentary series with Cathy Freeman called Going Bush (2006)[3][4][5] where the pair set off on a journey from Broome to Arnhem Land spending time with Indigenous communities along the way. She was featured prominently in the Leah Purcell documentary Black Chicks Talking (2001), where she candidly discussed her thoughts about her Aboriginal heritage.

She appeared in the Play School TV series and was part of The Actors Company for the Sydney Theatre Company (2006–2007).[citation needed]

She appeared in the film Rabbit-Proof Fence. She played a lead role in the 2010 musical film Bran Nue Dae. In the play The Sapphires and the subsequent film of the same name she played the role of singer Gail McCrae.

She was awarded an Inside Film Award for her short film Ralph.[citation needed] She played the role of Cherie Butterfield in Channel Ten's Offspring drama series.[6]

In 2012 she starred in Redfern Now, an indigenous mini-series for the ABC.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Mailman's partner is advertising executive Matthew Coonan. They have two sons, Henry and Oliver.[8] Deborah has four siblings.


Mailman at Australian Film Walk Of Fame at Randwick Ritz, The Spot Festival.
Year Film Role Notes
1998 Radiance Nona
2000 The Third Note Tina
2000 The Monkey's Mask Lou
2001-2006 The Secret Life of Us Kelly Lewis / Narrator TV series (Seasons 1-4, Episodes 1-86)
2002 Rabbit-Proof Fence Mavis
2006 The Book of Revelation Julie
2009 Bran Nue Dae Roxanne
2010 – present Offspring Cherie Butterfield TV series
2012 Mental Sandra
2012 The Sapphires Gail McCrae
2012 Mabo Bonita
2012 Redfern Now Lorraine TV series (Episode 3: Raymond)

Awards and nominations[edit]

AACTA Awards[edit]

Year Category Film Result
1998 Best Leading Movie Actress Radiance Won
2003 Best Leading TV Actress The Secret Life Of Us Won
2010 Best Supporting Movie Actress Bran Nue Dae Won
Best Supporting TV Actress Offspring Won
2013 Best Leading Movie Actress The Sapphires Won

Logie Awards[edit]

Year Category Film Result
2002 Most Outstanding Actress The Secret Life Of Us Won
2003 Nominated
2004 Won
2013 Mabo Won
Most Popular Actress Nominated

FCCA Awards[edit]

Year Category Film Result
2010 Best Supporting Actress Bran Nue Dae Nominated
2013 Best Actress The Sapphires Nominated

Other awards[edit]

Year Category Result
2003 NAIDOC Person of the Year Won
2003 Female Actor of the Year Won


  1. ^ inspirational-stories/deborah-mailman
  2. ^ AusStage
  3. ^ Going Bush[dead link]
  4. ^ "Going Bush - Series 1". ABC Shop. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Going Bush at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ "Deborah Mailman". Offspring. Network Ten. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010. [dead link]
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Sunday Herald Sun

External links[edit]