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“She was a remarkable actor”: Remembering A Country Practice star Joan Sydney

She was a legendary actor.
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Matron Maggie Sloan was a force of nature who could silence a doctor or nurse with one withering stare at Wandin Valley Bush Nursing Hospital, but Joan Sydney, the brilliant woman who played her, was witty and generous in real life.

Joan’s good friend and co-star on A Country Practice, Shane Porteous, 80, opened up exclusively to Woman’s Day about working with the “extraordinary actor” on the legendary show, before he turned his hand to writing and also worked with Joan on Neighbours.

“I’m very sad at news of Joan’s passing,” lamented the actor, who played Dr Terence Elliott on the show that made Joan a household name in Australia after starring in 453 episodes of A Country Practice between 1983 and 1990.

“I’m very sad at news of Joan’s passing.”

“We hadn’t been in touch in the last couple of years but she was an extraordinary actor. She was never out of character. She completely put aside her own personality to play all her characters. I saw her work for Neighbours when I was writing for the show, and her work there was similar.

“She could adopt totally new personalities and you never saw glimpses of her real personality coming through. She was a remarkable actor.”

Joan was one of the greats!


Shane says off-set, London-born Joan, who emigrated to Australia as a “10 pound Pom” in 1965 with husband Gerald and their three children, Tony, Amanda and Matthew, wasn’t that different from no-nonsense but compassionate Matron Sloan in real life.

“She was fun-loving. She had a very quick mind. She enjoyed writing, she enjoyed words, she enjoyed cryptic crosswords. She was very funny, very well-read. She read a lot of feminist novels and she was a strong feminist. I had a great deal of respect and admiration for Joan,” he says.

Home And Away star Georgie Parker, 58, who played nurse Lucy Gardiner opposite Joan on A Country Practice, posted a shot of herself in character with Matron Sloan in tribute, admitting she was in awe of the actor.

“She was one of the all-time greats, on stage and screen. Joan Sydney shared what she knew freely, and totally lived by her own rules. She was scary, generous, hugely talented, had an enormous wit and superb technique. How missed she will be,” posted Georgie on Instagram.

“I absolutely adored her.”

Jane Hall, 51, says it was an honour working with Joan on ACP when she played vet Dr Jess Morrison and also when Joan played her mum in a stage production of Secret Bridesmaids’ Business in 2000.

“I will never forget her skill, wit and dedication to getting it right,” she says.

Neighbours star Carla Bonner says it was surreal when she met Joan in the early 2000s when she started playing “my colourful Aunty Valda (Valda Sheergold) on the show”, because she had grown up watching her play Matron Sloan and was a huge fan.

“I absolutely adored her,” Carla, 49, tells Woman’s Day.

“Joan was a joy to work with – such a warm, loving and generous woman with a sharp wit and dry humour, a consummate professional, but we had such a great time, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside her.”

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Neighbours star Melissa Bell, who worked with Joan on Ramsay Street and on the soap E Street, where Joan played Mary Patchett, says she was “very friendly, warm and giving” and told Melissa to always “keep striving for what you want to achieve”.

Social media lit up with tributes to Joan after her close friend, former Neighbours and Wentworth star Sally-Anne Upton broke the news that she died peacefully in Sydney on December 28, including a touching one from a nurse, who says Matron Sloan inspired her to take up the profession.

“I will be forever grateful to Joan for her portrayal of the best kind of nurses I know and love – loyal to a fault, caring, empathetic and firm but fair.”

Joan’s son Tony says at the height of his mum’s fame on A Country Practice she started wearing a wig, scarf and dark glasses when she went out to avoid being mobbed by fans and revealed that she had a “long slow exit” after being diagnosed with dementia in 2015.

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