Magda Szubanski

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Magda Szubanski

Magda Szubanski 2013.jpg
Szubanski at Tropfest 2013
Magdalene Mary Szubanski[1]

(1961-04-12) 12 April 1961 (age 59)
EducationSiena College
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Years active1986–present
Notable work
Esme Cordelia Hoggett in Dick King-Smith's Babe (1995) and its 1998 sequel
Voice of Miss Viola in Happy Feet (2006)
TelevisionFast Forward (1989–1992)
Kath and Kim (2002–2007)

Magdalene Mary Szubanski AO (/ʒəˈbænski/ zhə-BAN-skee;[2] born 12 April 1961) is an Australian television and film actress, comedian and writer.[3]

Szubanski's career started as a writer and performer of sketch comedy and has since progressed to production of TV, film acting, and musical theatre. She starred in Fast Forward, Kath & Kim where she played Sharon Strzelecki, and in the films Babe (1995) and Babe: Pig in the City (1998) as Esme Hoggett.

In 2015, she released her memoir Reckoning.[4]

She has twice been polled as Australia's most recognised and trusted personality.[5]

In 2017, she became one of the most prominent faces of the same-sex marriage campaign in Australia[6] and the co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality rated her crucial in the success of the "Yes" campaign.[7]

On 26 January 2019, Szubanski was appointed an officer (AO) in the general division of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the performing arts as an actor, comedian and writer, and as a campaigner for same-sex marriage.[8]

Early life[edit]

Szubanski was born on 12 April 1961, in Liverpool, England.[9] Her mother Margaret (née McCarthy) is Scottish-Irish and came from a poor family. Her father, Zbigniew Szubański, came from a well-off Polish family and, as recorded in the official archives of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, was an assassin in a counter-intelligence branch of the Polish resistance movement in World War II.[10][11][12][13] Her cousin is Polish actress Magdalena Zawadzka. She attended high school at Siena College, Melbourne,[10] and later studied fine arts and philosophy at the University of Melbourne.[14] Szubanski graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Arts (degree with honours) in 2016.[15]

In 1976, as a Year 10 student, she captained a team on the television quiz It's Academic.[16]



Szubanski in character at the Kath & Kimderella film premiere, August 2012

In 1985, while performing in a University of Melbourne Law Revue of Too Cool for Sandals, with Michael Veitch and Tom Gleisner, Szubanski was talent-spotted by producers from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), who convinced her to join up with some other university friends in creating a television sketch comedy show, The D-Generation.[17]

Szubanski was part of the team that created the television sketch comedy Fast Forward for the Seven Network, in which she played various characters, including Pixie-Anne Wheatley, Chenille from the Institute de Beauté, Wee Mary MacGregor, Joan Kirner, Michelle Grogan and other characters. The character of Lynne Postlethwaite was first performed on the ABC's The D-Generation. It was originally written by John Allsop and Andrew Knight, but from Fast Forward on Szubanski co-wrote the sketches, and created and co-wrote her characters.

In 1995, she and friends Gina Riley and Jane Turner wrote, performed and produced the first all-female Australian sketch comedy television program; Big Girl's Blouse. When Riley and Turner developed the sketch-characters they had created into the sitcom Kath & Kim, Szubanski joined them to play Sharon Strzelecki, a character she had previously created herself.

Her character Sharon "pashed" (Australian slang for vigorous kissing) and "married" Australian cricketing legend Shane Warne. She also "pashed" the late Australian actor Heath Ledger on the red carpet at the AFI awards in 2006 while in the role of Sharon, acting as an assistant stage manager.[citation needed]

In 1999, Szubanski created, wrote, co-produced and starred as Margaret O'Halloran in the Dogwoman series of TV films, a detective style show based on the idea an expert "dog-whisperer" who, by treating problem dogs, inadvertently stumbles upon and solves human crimes.

Sharon Strzelecki is one of Szubanski's most developed characters

In 2009, she appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? where she explored her father's Polish Resistance activities as well as the story of her shell-shocked Irish grandfather and her sculptor ancestor Luigi Isepponi who assisted in making the Death mask for William Burke, half of the duo Burke and Hare, notorious grave robbers and serial killers.

From 3 September 2018, Szubanski recurred as Jemima Davies-Smythe on Neighbours. Her character officiated the first same-sex wedding on Australian television.[18]

On 8 April 2019, she appeared as "Guest Announcer" on Chris & Julia's Sunday Night Takeaway's season finale where she participated in a number of roles.


Szubanski starred in the 1995 film Babe as Esme Hoggett. She reprised her role in the 1998 sequel, Babe: Pig in the City. She then teamed up again with director/producer George Miller to voice the role of Miss Viola in the animated films Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two.

In 2007, she had a minor role as Mrs Lonsdale, the housemaid in The Golden Compass to Lyra Belacqua.


In 2015, Szubanski released her award-winning memoir Reckoning. In 2016 the book won several awards and beat some of Australias top literary authors to win the TBA.[19] Reckoning also won the $40,000 Douglas Stewart Prize for Nonfiction[20] and "Book of the Year" and "Biography of the Year" at the Australian Book Industry Awards.[3]

While the book is nominally an autobiography, it is in large part about her father Zbigniew Szubanski, who was an assassin working for the Polish Resistance during World War 2. Reckoning deals with the themes of intergenerational trauma, the possible genetic inheritance of traumatic memory and Szubanski's struggles with her own sexuality in the shadow of this legacy.

Reviewer Peter Craven in The Australian said it would "dazzle every kind of reader" and described it as "a riveting, overwhelmingly poignant autobiography by a woman of genius. It is a book about how someone might live with the idea of killing the thing they love. It is a story of love and death and redemption and a daughter's love for her father. It is an extraordinary hymn to the tragic heroism at the heart of ordinary life and the soaring moral scrutiny of womankind. Every library should have it, every school should teach it."[21]

Richard Ferguson in The Sydney Morning Herald wrote, "This is documentary writing of the highest order and Szubanski has given life to an incredible war story…Reckoning, this tale of war and suburbia, sexuality and comedy, is likely to be the most popular Australian book of the year. Anyone who doesn't adore Magda Szubanski the clown will be awed by Szubanski the A-grade non-fiction writer. Let's hope the books keep on coming."[22]

Academy Award winner and friend Geoffrey Rush launched her book and wrote in The Guardian: "I was absorbed in preparing for King Lear when I read the book. The classical stature of that particular father-daughter relationship didn't go unnoticed. Magda grew up in the shadow of a difficult reckoning — the summation, the questioning, the Elizabethan sense of settling the bill with one's parents. As she phrases it: her father needed to forget— she needed to remember. The only way forward was back. Her book riffs a major life in a reflective minor key. I've got lost in Joyce's Dublin, Woolf's Bloomsbury, the Bronte Sisters' Yorkshire moors. Now I'm enthralled with Magda Szubanski's Croydon, Australia's own collective sub-conscious suburb, the architecture of which she deftly anoints as Bauhaus's "bastard child"…Reckoning is really a non-fiction novel – and its invitation into Magda's story is infectious."[23]

The Premier's Award judges described Reckoning as 'warm, clear, wise, funny and deeply intelligent. The amplitude of Szubanski's writing is particularly impressive. Her voice has a light surety, while constantly giving narrative and moral weight to the larger themes of grief, family, migration and finding one's place in the world'."[24]

Musical theatre[edit]

In 2007, Szubanski ventured into musical comedy, taking on the role of William Barfee in the Melbourne Theatre Company production of the hit Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Variety described her performance as "sensationally good".[25] Australian Stage said, "Magda Szubanski as the Eric Cartman-esque William Barfee steals the show."[26]

In 2008, she again participated in some gender-blind casting, taking on the role of pint-sized gangster Big Jule in a major stage production of Guys and Dolls.

In 2010, she appeared in the first Indigenous musical film Bran Nue Dae as Roadhouse Betty alongside Geoffrey Rush, Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins and Deborah Mailman. The film was directed by Rachel Perkins, daughter of the Aboriginal activist Charlie Perkins.

In 2012, she again teamed with Rush to appear in the Stephen Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Other projects[edit]

In 2004, Szubanski advertised the airline Jetstar.[27] Szubanski became a spokesperson for the dieting company Jenny Craig in November 2008.[28] Szubanski joined Jenny Craig weighing 110 kg and had been diagnosed with sleep apnoea.[28] By July 2009, she had lost 36 kg to weigh 85 kg.[29] She later regained weight, then was dropped as a spokesperson for Jenny Craig. However, subsequent weight loss led to her being re-signed as their spokesperson. She was later again dropped from Jenny Craig. She was also featured in commercials for Telstra in 2014. In 2019, she appeared in an Uber Eats ad which appears to be with Gina Riley as Kim but turns out to be Kim Kardashian.

Charity and activism[edit]

In her late teens, Szubanski volunteered as a worker in a women's refuge in Melbourne's north-west region. She eventually became a paid worker.

She is patron of Twenty/10.[30]

During the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, Szubanski was interviewed on several TV shows advocating for a "Yes" result.[31]

Some have credited her contribution to the same-sex marriage survey as having been "crucial"[32] to the outcome. Szubanski has been a vocal campaigner for LGBTQAI+ rights and for same-sex marriage since coming out publicly.[33] Her appearance on Q&A[34] is considered by some to be pivotal [1] in the debate. Her National Press Club address, entitled "What It Feels Like To Be An Unwilling Human Guinea Pig In A Political Experiment", spoke of the pain as well as the joy experienced by LGBTQAI+ people throughout the duration of the survey.

Personal life[edit]

Szubanski has described herself as "culturally Catholic".[35]

On 14 February 2012, Szubanski came out, in a statement supporting same-sex marriage timed to coincide with Valentine's Day. Later that day, she stated that she "absolutely identifies as gay" in an interview on Australian TV current affairs program The Project.[36][37]

She is single and during the 2013 Australian federal election she tweeted lightheartedly about the lack of policy catering for single people.[38][39]



Year Title Role Notes
1986–1987 The D-Generation Various characters
1988 The D-Generation Goes Commercial Various characters
1989–1992 Fast Forward Pixie-Anne Wheatley, Chenille, Joan Kirner, Mary McGregor, Maggie T & Satan's Brides
1992 Bligh Betsy Bligh
1993 Full Frontal Various characters
The Making of Nothing Judith Gates/Kim Borrodale
A Royal Commission into the Australian Economy Mr Cardigan, Mr Trouser, Bill Kelty
1994 Big Girl's Blouse Herself, Sharon Karen Strzelecki, Lynne Postlethwaite
1995 The Search for Christmas Herself
1996 The Genie from Down Under Doris
1997 Good Guys, Bad Guys Bella Bouvier
1998 Something Stupid Various characters
1999–2001 Farscape Furlow
2000–2001 Dogwoman Margaret O'Halloran
2002–2007 Kath & Kim Sharon Karen Strzelecki, Lorraine Craig
2006 Magda's Funny Bits Mary McGregor, Chenille, Sharon Karen Strzelecki, Lynne Postlethwaite
2009 The Spearman Experiment Host
2010 Who Do You Think You Are? Herself
2014 Rake Helen
Legit Anne Jefferies
It's a Date Mary-Angela
2015 Open Slather Various characters
Stop Laughing... This Is Serious Herself
2016 Anh's Brush with Fame Herself Series 1 Episode 1 [40]
Q&A Herself (19 September 2016)[41]
2017 Q&A Herself 23 October
2018 Neighbours Jemima Davies-Smythe 3 September
2019 Chris & Julia's Sunday Night Takeaway Herself: Guest Announcer Season Finale: 14 April
2019 My Life Is Murder Miranda Lee Episode: "Old School";
Series 1 Episode 7


Year Title Role Notes
1995 Babe Esme Cordelia Hoggett
1998 Babe: Pig in the City Esme Cordelia Hoggett
2002 The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course Brozzie Drewitt
2005 Son of the Mask Neighbour Betty
2006 Happy Feet Miss Viola Voice
2007 Dr Plonk Mrs. Plonk
Goodnight, Vagina Mrs. March Short
Little Deaths Iris
The Golden Compass Mrs. Lonsdale
2010 Bran Nue Dae Roadhouse Betty
Santa's Apprentice Beatrice Voice
2011 Happy Feet Two Miss Viola Voice
2012 Kath & Kimderella Sharon Karen Strzelecki
2013 Goddess Cassandra Wolfe
2017 Three Summers Queenie
2018 The BBQ The Butcher
2019 Ride Like a Girl Sister Dominique
2020 100% Wolf Mrs. Mutton Voice




  • Won the 'Most Popular Comedy Personality' award at the 1991, 1992 and 1996 Logie awards
  • Won the Australian Film Institute's award 'Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama' award in 2002[42]
  • Nominated 'Best Family Actress' OFTA Film Awards 1999
  • Nominated for the 'Most Popular Actress' award at the 2005 Logie Awards, for her role in Kath & Kim
  • Nominated for 'Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama or Comedy' award in 2003 at the AFI Awards
  • Nominated for 'Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama or Comedy' award in 2004 at the AFI Awards
  • Nominated for 'Best Female actor in a Musical' at the 2006 Helpmann Awards for her role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Nominated for 'Female Actor in a Featured Role' at the 2006 Green Room Awards for her role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  • Nominated Silver Logie 'Most Popular Actress' in Kath & Kim 2008
  • Nominated for 'Best Actress Supporting Role' Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards 2014 for 'Goddess'


  • Winner – Awgie Award for sketch comedy BIG GIRL'S BLOUSE
  • Winner – Awgie Award FAST FORWARD Writing team best Comedy/Revue/Sketch, 1990, 1991
  • Winner, Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, 2016 award
  • Winner, Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016 award
  • Winner, Biography of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016 award
  • Winner, Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, NSW Premier's Literary Awards, 2016 award
  • Winner, Indie Award for Non-Fiction, 2016 award
  • Winner, Victorian Community History Award Judges' Special Prize, 2016 award
  • Shortlisted, Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016 award
  • Shortlisted, Dobbie Literary Award, 2016 award
  • Shortlisted, National Biography Award, 2016



  1. ^ Szubanski, Magda. "Magda Szubanski on Twitter: "I love Wikipedia but gosh there are some inaccuracies! My middle name is Mary - NOT Mariana!! #whowritesthisstuff"". Twitter. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  2. ^ "ABC Pronounce". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 September 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  3. ^ Knox, David (26 November 2010). "Comedy masks Magda's pain". Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  4. ^ "'Not a celebrity memoir, it's not a tell-all'". Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  5. ^ "Magda has 'it' - People -". Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  6. ^ "'Human guinea pigs': Magda Szubanski calls same-sex marriage survey 'political experiment'". Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  7. ^ Lallo, Michael (15 November 2017). "Marriage equality: Magda Szubanski's crucial role in yes victory". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b Derkley, Evahn (25 January 2019). "Australia Day 2019 Honours List". Archived from the original on 27 May 2019. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  9. ^ England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916–2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.
  10. ^ a b Craven, Peter (10 November 2007). "There's something about Magda". The Age. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  11. ^ McMahon, Kate (15 February 2012). "Magda Szubanski had suicidal thoughts over sexuality". Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  12. ^ "New Australian Who Do You Think You Are?®: Magda Szubanski". Blog. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  13. ^ Szubanski, Magda (18 March 2014). "Reclaiming Fear". The Moth. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  14. ^ "Alumni". University of Melbourne. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  15. ^ Systems, Student Management (28 June 2006). "Student Information System". Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  16. ^ Burnstock, Tammy. "It's Academic – Episode 40: Curator's notes". Australian Screen. National Film and Sound Archive, Australia. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Magda Szubanski (Mondo Things: Cheat Notes, episode 30)". Mondo Things. ABC. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  18. ^ "Magda Szubanski has joined the cast of Neighbours - Entertainment NovaFM". NovaFM. 30 May 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Subscribe to The Australian | Newspaper home delivery, website, iPad, iPhone & Android apps". Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Subscribe | theaustralian". Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  21. ^ "A woman of substance". 2 October 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  22. ^ Ferguson, Richard (16 October 2015). "Book review: In Reckoning, Magda Szubanski pays homage to her assassin dad". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  23. ^ Rush, Geoffrey (14 October 2015). "The chameleon comedian who charmed a country: Geoffrey Rush on Magda Szubanski". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  24. ^ Wyndham, Susan (20 May 2016). "Magda Szubanski's memoir Reckoning finds its place in the world of winners". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  25. ^ Kemp, Peter H. (5 February 2006). "Review: 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'". Variety. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  26. ^ "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee". Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  27. ^ "Magda has 'it' - People -". Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  28. ^ a b Park, Nicky (24 December 2008). "Weight no longer a joke for Magda Szubanski". Brisbane Times. AAP. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  29. ^ Browne, Rachel (1 November 2009). "The risks and rewards of celebrity slimmers". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  30. ^ "Who We Are - Patron Magda Szubanski - Twenty10 Inc GLCS NSW". Twenty10 inc GLCS NSW.
  31. ^ Moran, Rob (24 August 2017). "Magda Szubanski in tears on The Project over marriage equality vote". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  32. ^ Lallo, Michael (15 November 2017). "Marriage equality: Magda Szubanski's crucial role in yes victory". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  33. ^ Quinn, Karl (15 February 2012). "Gay-gay-gay-gay - Magda comes out". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  34. ^ "Szubanski challenges Archbishop in Q&A same-sex marriage episode". ABC News. 24 October 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  35. ^ "Special interview with actress and comedian Magda Szubanski". Radio National. 25 December 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  36. ^ Quinn, Karl (15 February 2012). "Gay-gay-gay-gay - Magda comes out". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  37. ^ "Magda Szubanski 'absolutely' identifies as gay". The Daily Telegraph. 15 February 2012.
  38. ^ @@magdaszubanski (27 August 2013). "Does anyone ever target policies at single people?? Ever?? Anyone???In the whole history of the world??Just one tiny little policy??? Ever??" (Tweet). Retrieved 17 January 2017 – via Twitter.
  39. ^ Hughes, Andrew; Smyth, Paul (6 September 2013). "FactCheck: do political parties ever come up with a policy for singles?". The Conversation. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  40. ^ "Anh's Brush With Fame - Series 1 Ep 1 Magda Szubanski : ABC iview".
  41. ^ McMahon, Neil (21 September 2016). "Magda Szubanski and Jimmy Barnes take on politicians". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  42. ^ "Australian Film Institute, Past Winners, Television 1986–2006" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  43. ^ "Voltaire Award – Magda Szubanski | Liberty Victoria". Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  44. ^ "2018 State Award Winner Magda Szubanski". Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  45. ^ Hair, Jonathan (23 October 2017). "Samuel Johnson, Magda Szubanski among Victoria's Australian of the Year nominees". ABC News. Retrieved 29 April 2019.

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