Vanessa Downing  (born 1958) is an Australian character actress of theatre and screen; she has also done recordings including singing and voice-over. She was educated in Sydney, attended the Australian theatre for young people, and holds a Master's degree in English Literature from University of Sydney . She graduated as a lawyer in 2006, and now juggles a law career with her acting roles, mostly on the stage 
Theatre roles include Three a Penny and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf . As well as being a well-known and prominent stage actress she has featured in many television roles including All Saints , classic '80s soap opera Sons and Daughters , G.P. , Water Rats , HeadLand and Packed to the Rafters .
She is best known however for being an original cast member of the television soap opera Home and Away playing a role many years her senior as foster mother Pippa Fletcher , replacing Carole Willesee at short notice, the wife of newsreader Mike Willesee , who was originally cast as Pippa, with the casting news hitting the headlines, at the publicity launch of the soap. When Downing left the series in 1990, apparently because she missed working along co-star Roger Oakley the part was taken over at short notice again by Debra Lawrance who went on to play the character from 1990 to 1998, with subsequent guest appearances. After Debra took over the role, the character of Pippa Ross was awarded a fictitious OAM for her services as a foster parent. Vanessa has starred in the sitcom Bullpitt! , a relaunch of Kingswood Country along with many roles in mini-series; she is also an extremely well-known theatre actress  .