You've often talked about the "mum guilt" you felt when you returned to work after having your daughter Aleeia. Is there something you feel society needs to be doing to remove that stigma?
Every woman's situation and level of emotional guilt is different, but I think it's as simple as having support from the right people in your life. There is no shame in being a strong, focused, dedicated mother who has a drive for success in her field of work.
What advice do you have for women who work in places that aren't as supportive as Neighbours and Ten?
Stand your ground and own the person you are. Fight for what you want.
Feminism often gets a bad rap, but it's obviously a very important ideology – is it something you will instil in Aleeia?
Absolutely, and I do this by being a good mother and friend to her and showing her daily how hard I work. My job and commitment to it shows my little girl every day that hard work and focus gives you strength.
Is there one former Neighbours star that you'd love to return so you can work with them?
It's a great day to reflect upon the achievements of women and how far we have come. Even in the past year, things have changed so drastically. For example, more women than ever before were voted into the United States Congress, giving young girls a swathe of new role models to look up to and be inspired by.
Who are some of your strongest female mentors?
I am surrounded by incredible women at work! I am honoured to work alongside legendary actresses Colette Mann and Rebekah Elmaloglou. My beloved Debra Lawrance, who has helped me so much in both work and life, is also an extraordinary woman. Then there's my mum, who is my best friend, my confidant and my rock.
How have you dealt with setbacks and roadblocks?
With the help of my mum! She is always there to commiserate, to advise, to comfort and to teach. I would be completely lost without her.
How important have movements like #MeToo been to you and your peers?
Movements like #MeToo, which spark a groundswell of activism, are vital in changing any cultural or political inequities.
I don't know that our industry is any better or worse than another, but clearly there are women who have been treated in unacceptable, and indeed, criminal ways, who now will have a voice. That can only be a good thing!
Who has been a great mentor to you?
I was lucky enough to be taught at drama school by Joan Harris, a woman who remained my mentor and friend until her death a couple of years ago. She left indelible lessons with me and I suppose, in turn, I try to pass on to younger actresses that I work with, the notions of equality, voicing their opinions and not accepting a situation that feels wrong to them.
Neighbours has launched the careers of some many Aussie actors, including Margot Robbie. What was it like working with her?
Margot's such a natural and instinctive actress. She was also very smart and kind.
I'm so proud of her and impressed that, now she has a powerful place in the industry, she has committed to running her production company, using 50 per cent female employees across all departments. What a gal!
Working in the entertainment industry can be tough. Is it something you would stop your four-year-old daughter Ivy Rae from doing?
I have probably said that, up until Ivy Rae was born. Then I realised that holding [children] back from pursuing what they want to do is also against my values as a mother, and all I can do is arm them with resilience and a strong sense of purpose.
Who are some of the on-set and industry mentors that have helped you throughout your career and what advice have they given?
Over the years, Ryan Moloney, Jackie Woodburne and I had some really amazing conversations around integrity of characters, storylines and gender representation on the show, and it was important to all of us that this was represented well in each of our characters.
What's the one piece of advice you wish you had as a young and upcoming actress that you would give someone else?
I would say, know why you are doing it, because it's a responsibility and should be treated as such. You have a responsibility to the story and to the audience, and how and what you represent both in performance and on other platforms like social media, can be incredibly powerful.
You are the point of connection – a comfort, an inspiration and educator. Always be mindful of that.