Donald Fisher (Home and Away)

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Donald Fisher
Home and Away character
Portrayed by Norman Coburn
Duration 1988–2005, 2007
First appearance 17 January 1988
Last appearance 11 September 2007
Introduced by Alan Bateman (1988)
Julie McGuaran (2003–05)
Cameron Welsh (2007)
Book appearances The Bobby Simpson Story
Scandal at Summer Bay
Classification Former; regular
Occupation Deputy Principal of Summer Bay High
Principal of Summer Bay High
Home The Whitsundays

Donald "Don" Fisher is a fictional character in the Australian television soap opera Home and Away played by actor Norman Coburn as a regular character, from the soap's inception in 1988 to 2003. He acts as the main antagonist in the show's pilot episode, willing to go to any lengths to ensure local teen Bobby Simpson is locked up, however his character soon softens. He spends almost his entire tenure on the show as the Principal of Summer Bay (at which he is given his iconic nickname "Flathead"), where he is stern but fair to all the students. Although departing as a main character in 2003, Coburn has since returned for brief appearances in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Coburn's long-running portrayal of Fisher earned him a place in the 2002 Guinness World Records alongside castmates Ray Meagher and Kate Ritchie.[1] as the longest serving cast member of an Australian soap opera.


Donald is first seen when he arrives at the Caravan Park of Summer Bay House and informs Neville McPhee (Frank Lloyd) that he was recently burgled and it is clear that he suspects local tearaway Bobby Simpson (Nicolle Dickson) of being the culprit. Donald welcomes the Fletcher family, on their arrival to Summer Bay and inadvertently manages to scare young Sally Keating (Kate Ritchie).

Donald later is accused of poisoning Eric, the Fletcher's pet dog, and Jessie, Nico Pappas)' (Nicholas Papademetriou) cow, but these deeds are later revealed to be those of Donald's superior, Walter Bertram (Owen Weingott), who had been running around in the guise of "The Nutter", following a brain tumour. With Walter out of action, Donald is promoted to headmaster of Summer Bay High.

When Donald's ex-wife Barbara (Barbara Stevens) arrives to take a teaching post at the school, he is surprised and when their son Alan (Simon Kay) arrives to repeat Year 12, Donald becomes stressed as his relationship with Alan has deteriorated in the four years since they last saw each other. Alan begins acting up at school but Donald softens when he finds out Alan has a brain tumour, but lashes out when Alan provokes him one day. Just when it seems father and son have patched things up, Alan dies of an aneurysm.

At the start of 1989, Bobby begins searching for her biological parents. Donald, after finding out his former sister-in-law, Morag Bellingham (Cornelia Frances) is Bobby's mother, visits Morag in hospital and asks if he is Bobby's father. Morag confirms he is but Donald wants this kept a secret. After Donald refuses to sell his house to the Macklin development at Morag's suggestion, she threatens to tell Bobby the truth. Donald remains unflappable and refuses to change his stance on the matter. After the truth comes out, Donald and Bobby have a shaky start but ultimately become close and she begins calling him "Dad".

The following Year, Tom Fletcher (Roger Oakley) dies and Donald offers support to his widow, Pippa (Vanessa Downing). Donald soon begins making romantic advances but is rebuffed. When Lucinda Croft (Dee Smart), Donald's niece arrives, he is quick to play matchmaker between her and local constable Nick Parrish (Bruce Roberts). After Nick's relationship with Lou fizzles out, Donald and Nick remain friends after Nick stays on in the house with his wayward teenage brother, Shane (Dieter Brummer). Donald later becomes the guardian of teenage runaway Angel Brooks (Melissa George), who later begins dating Shane.

Donald's world is shattered when Bobby dies in a boating accident aged 22 and tries to take responsibility for his adoptive grandson, Sam Marshall (Ryan Clark (who calls him "Uncle Donald") but is unable to so sends him to live with Pippa and her new husband. Fisher celebrates his 50th birthday in February 1995. When Shane and Angel marry, Donald is present to give Angel away. Later that year Donald loses his home and his last remaining photos of Bobby in a bushfire caused by Jack Wilson (Daniel Amalm).

Donald begins dating local beautician Marilyn Chambers (Emily Symons), and they later become engaged despite Marilyn being 27 years old and him being 51. They eventually marry in 1996. Shortly after the wedding, Donald's daughter Rebecca (Belinda Emmett) returns to the Bay full-time to teach at the school. When Rebecca marries Travis Nash (Nic Testoni) on the beach in the 1997 season finale, Donald is present as celebrant. After Pippa leaves, Donald becomes Sam's guardian when he fails to adjust to Travis and Rebecca as his new foster parents

Marilyn later falls pregnant and gives birth to a son, Byron Vincent, named after Vinnie Patterson (Ryan Kwanten) who illegally sped through traffic to get Marilyn to hospital. After suffering from post-natal depression and left Donald alone with Byron. When Marilyn returns a few months later, she feels inadequate as Donald has hired Nanny Ellen Porter (Anne Grigg) but later grow to love Byron. This is only to last a few months as Byron is diagnosed with cancer. The Fishers leave with Byron for America to get treatment, but Byron later dies. Marilyn, unable to cope, leaves Donald and he returns to Australia alone.

In 2000, Donald is pleased to be given the honour of walking Sally down the aisle at her wedding to Keiran Fletcher but ultimately hands the honour over to Sally's foster brothers Steven Matheson and Frank Morgan. When the 2000 Olympics begin Donald has the honour of carrying the Olympic torch through Summer Bay, but has it switched with a fake by several students. Alf Stewart (Ray Meagher) notices and tells him "Don, stop! It's the wrong flamin' flame!". Following Sam's departure, Donald feels alone again. Seb Miller (Mitch Firth), a dyslexic student, began questioning Fisher and asking questions about Alan. It is later revealed Seb's mother Anna (Elizabeth Maywald) had a one-night stand with Alan at a party in 1985, resulting in Seb's conception, and Anna, who had been dying had wanted to tell Donald. Donald does not want to believe this at first but a DNA test confirms Seb is, in fact, his grandson. Donald and Seb later build a close relationship and live together. Later in the year, Donald goes to London along with Irene and her foster children, Will (Zac Drayson), Hayley (Bec Cartwright) and Nick Smith (Chris Egan) to attend the launch of his book Letter to Byron. While there, Donald notices Marilyn watching from the shadows and runs after her. After catching up with Marilyn, the two have a conversation about the events of the last several years and agree to part amicably.

In 2003, Donald decides to retire from teaching and leaves the Bay for the Whitsundays with his new partner, June Reynolds (Rowena Wallace). Later that year, Donald returns to be the celebrant at Sally's wedding to local doctor, Flynn Saunders (Joel McIlroy).

Donald returns when he hears Seb and his girlfriend Jade Sutherland (Kate Garven) were injured in a car crash caused by Duncan (Brendan McKensy), Alf's son and Seb's first cousin removed. Seb is left paralysed and Donald offers to fly him back to the Whitsundays and look after him. Donald also returns in 2005 for Alf's 60th birthday party where he forgives Duncan after he apologizes about the accident he caused the previous year. In late 2007, Donald returns to Summer Bay as the new Vice Principal of Summer Bay (ironically working for Sally, who served under him during his tenure as Principal) but he soon resigns, saying that he cannot handle the students anymore. Donald reveals he has since divorced June and has gone bankrupt. After borrowing some money from Alf and Morag, Donald goes to visit his former wife, Marilyn, in England after learning she is suffering from cancer.


The episode featuring the earthquake where Donald and several other students were at risk in the school was nominated for an Australian Film Institute Award.[2] The episode featuring Donald facing backlash over allowing Marat/Sade to be performed at the school won writer Linda Stainton the Australian Writers Guild Award in 1998.[3] Channel 5 chose Donald's wedding to Marilyn, Donald's disappearance at sea, his departure and 2007 return among their best episodes.[4][5][6][7]

Brian Courtis of The Age criticized Donald's exit in 2003: "Don certainly merited more than this teary-eyed, Goodbye-Mr-Chips dismissal. Old "Flathead", never happy at the cheeriest of times, has reason to look sad and sorry in his farewell episode of Home And Away (7pm, Seven). It is sloppy, sentimental, touching... showing almost unspeakable verisimilitude to real life. There is a last dollop of poetry for his final class of kids, an endless minor-key tinkling of the piano as Fisher's groper-wide mouth gulps at the thought of leaving his beloved waters, and then, with students, staff and locals, the big, emotional, surprise farewell party before he tootles off to Queensland, Valhalla of all Australian soapie greats." [8] Virgin Media described Donald as having "a fearsome demeanor" and "always had the interests of his pupils at heart."[9]


  1. ^ Guinness World Records 2002. Guinness World Records Limited;. 2001. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-85112-124-6. 
  2. ^ "AFI Award Winners Feature Categories 1958-2009". Australian Film Institute. 2009. Archived from the original on 20 September 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "Winners 1968-2006" (PDF). Australian Writers Guild. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "Episode 2036 - The One Where Marilyn Says I Do". Channel 5. (Northern & Shell). Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Episode 2485 - The One Where Fisher Goes Overboard". Channel 5. (Northern & Shell). Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Episode 3455 - The One Where Fisher Leaves". Channel 5. (Northern & Shell). Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "Episode 4469 The One Where Fisher Comes Back". Channel 5. (Northern & Shell). Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Brian, Courtis (28 February 2003). "Where Soap Springs Eternal". The Age. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  9. ^ "Home And Away: Who's Who?". (Virgin Media Inc.). 25 January 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2012.