Born and bred in Brisbane, Burns attended Milton State Primary School where her initiation into the world of theatre began with elocution classes in 1958. Burns acted with Brisbane Arts Theatre and also Twelfth Night Theatre in Brisbane.
Burns' major television role was her award winning performance in the now cult television program, Prisoner, in which she played tough lesbian bikie, Franky Doyle. Although only appearing in the first 20 episodes, her character attained cult status resulting in her winning a Logie Award for best lead actress. Burns stated in a 2011 interview she left the show as the pay was very low and the work load was increasing due to the more rapid production of episodes. She also stated that it was her decision to be killed off as she did not want to be lured back. A highly experienced and versatile theatre actress, Burns has also appeared in films including The Mango Tree, Bad Blood, Starstruck, and Strikebound.
Burns had acted exclusively in the theatre for ten years before acting in film or on television. As a founding member of the Queensland Theatre Company, based in Brisbane, she has been a major contributor to its success. In 2005, Burns performed in the Queensland Theatre Company's sell-out season of Edward Albee's production of The Goat or Who is Sylvia?. As part of the 2007 season, she appeared in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. She has also performed for La Boite Theatre. Her most recent role was in a stage production of Elizabeth: Almost by Chance a Woman by Italian playwright Dario Fo. In 2015, Burns is due to take the lead role in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days for Queensland Theatre Company.
Burns is also a talented director. Not long ago she directed a stage production of Picnic At Hanging Rock at Brisbane Arts Theatre.
Awards and nominations
- Logie Awards – Best Lead Actress in a Series – Prisoner (1979) – won
- Australian Film Institute – Best Actress in a Guest Role in a Television Drama Series – Blue Heelers (1994) – episode – "Deadly Fascination" – nominated
- Australian Film Institute – Best Actress in a Lead Role – Strikebound (1984) -nominated
- Australian Film Institute – Best Actress in a Supporting Role – The Mango Tree (1977) – nominated
- Queensland Actors Equity Award – Best Established Artist – (2006) – won
- The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams – Queensland Theatre Company
- Carol Burns at the Internet Movie Database
- Queensland Theatre Company – The Glass Menagerie
- View diary of Maria Steley written in 1863–1864 and narrated by Carol Burns. This virtual book is held at the State Library of Queensland, reference code OM71-14.
- Redman, Bruce; Kelly Higgins-Devine (2 May 2005). Carol Burns: a conversation. Brisbane: ABC Queensland Radio.
- Williams, Tennessee (July 2007). The Glass Menagerie. Brisbane: Queensland Theatre Company.