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 44)
Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia
Occupation Actress
Partner(s) Matthew Coonan
Children 2

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 and had gone on to win four more both in television and film. The awards are now known as the AACTA Awards.

She is well known for having played the character Kelly Lewis on successful Australian television series, The Secret Life of Us. She is also well known for her current role as Cherie Butterfield in the successful Australian drama series Offspring. She also portrayed the role of Lorraine in the rotating cast of the acclaimed Australian TV series about Aboriginal life Redfern Now.

She starred in lead roles in the acclaimed films Rabbit-Proof Fence, Oddball, The Sapphires, and Paper Planes.

Early life[edit]

Mailman grew up in Mount Isa in north-west Queensland.[1] 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.[2]


Mailman at Australian Film Walk of Fame at Randwick Ritz, The Spot Festival

Mailman played the role of Kate in a La Boite Theatre production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew in 1994.[3][4] Other early stage roles include solo show The Seven Stages of Grieving (which she co-wrote with Wesley Enoch) for Kooemba Jdarra, Queensland Theatre Company's 1997 revival of Louis Nowra's play Radiance, and Cordelia in King Lear for Bell Shakespeare in 1998.[5][6]

In 1998, Mailman made her film debut as Nona in the Australian independent film Radiance (based on the play), for which she won the AFI Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[1] 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).

Mailman was featured prominently in the Leah Purcell documentary Black Chicks Talking (2001), where she candidly discussed her thoughts about her Aboriginal heritage.[7] In 2006, she took part in a four-part television documentary series with Cathy Freeman called Going Bush, where the pair set off on a journey from Broome to Arnhem Land spending time with Indigenous communities along the way.[8]

She appeared in the Play School TV series and was part of The Actors Company for the Sydney Theatre Company (2006–2007).[9]

She appeared in the film Rabbit-Proof Fence.[5] She played a lead role in the 2010 musical film Bran Nue Dae.[10] 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, which starred Madeleine Madden.[11] From 2010 to 2014, she played the role of Cherie Butterfield in Channel Ten's Offspring drama series.[12]

In 2012, she starred in Redfern Now, an indigenous mini-series for the ABC.[13]

On 29 January 2015, Mailman co-hosted the AACTA Awards with Cate Blanchett.[14]

Mailman started as Maureen Prescott in Paper Planes, released 15 January 2015. She then appeared as Mayor Lake in Oddball and the voice of Blinky Bill's mother in Blinky Bill the Movie.

Personal life[edit]

Mailman's partner is advertising executive Matthew Coonan. They have two sons, Henry and Oliver.[15] Deborah has four siblings.


Year Film Role Notes
1998 Radiance Nona
2000 The Third Note Tina Short film
2000 The Monkey's Mask Lou
2001–05 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– 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)
(Episode 7:Where the Heart Is)
2013 The Darkside
2015 Paper Planes Maureen
2015 Oddball Mayor Lake
2015 Redfern Now: Promise Me Lorraine TV movie
2015 Blinky Bill the Movie Blinky's mum Voice
2016 Tomorrow When the War Began Kath Mackenzie TV series
2016 Cleverman Aunty Linda TV series
2016 Black Comedy Guest Cast TV series
2016 Wolf Creek Bernadette TV series

Awards and nominations[edit]

Mailman's plaque at the Australian Film Walk of Fame, Ritz Cinema, Randwick, Sydney

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
Best Supporting Movie Actress Mental Nominated
2016 Paper Planes Nominated
Best Leading TV Actress Redfern Now Nominated

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
2016 Most Outstanding Actress Redfern Now: Promise Me Won

FCCA Awards[edit]

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

Helpmann Awards[edit]

Year Category Production Result
2003 Best Female Actor in a Play The Seven Stages of Grieving Nominated
2005 Best Female Actor in a Play The Sapphires Nominated
2007 Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play The Lost Echo Won

Other awards[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b Lehmann, Megan (9 November 2013). "Darkside star Deborah Mailman moves amid kindred spirits". The Australian. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  2. ^ inspirational-stories/deborah-mailman
  3. ^ AusStage
  4. ^ Bryant, Nick (October 2012). "The Mailman express: An actress on a roll". The Monthly. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Prior, Sian (11 March 2002). "Smashing through". The Age. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Jopson, Debra (15 June 2002). "Look at us now". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  8. ^ Dwyer, Michael (26 January 2006). "Home and away". The Age. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "The Actors Company's short, fraught life". The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 April 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Hawker, Philippa (8 August 2009). "Indigenous film's world premiere introduces some Bran Nue stars". The Age. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  11. ^ "Ralph". Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  12. ^ "Deborah Mailman". Offspring. Network Ten. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010. [dead link]
  13. ^ Knox, David (28 May 2012). "Cameras roll on Redfern Now". TV Tonight. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Domjen, Briana (11 January 2015). "Deborah Mailman and Cate Blanchett to co-host the AACTA Awards". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  15. ^ Sunday Herald Sun

External links[edit]