Mary Ward Breheny (born 6 March 1915), credited professionally as Mary Ward , is an Australian actress of stage, television and film and former radio broadcaster. Ward trained in Britain and Australia, and worked in England on the stage circuit before appearing in film, returning to Australia she became one of the first female radio announcers at ABC in Australia. She is perhaps best known both locally and internationally though for her television soap opera roles including: "Mum" (Jeanette) Brooks in the cult series Prisoner , (known to international audiences as Prisoner: Cell Block H in The UK and USA and Caged Women in Canada), devious Dee Morrell in soap opera Sons and Daughters and briefly as Betty Withers in Blue Heelers. [1]


Ward was born to a pearler in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1915. [3] [5] She began acting professionally shortly after leaving high school, and later studied at the Perth drama school. She also studied in England, performing as a stage actress for several years. Ward worked in Britain in film and repertory stage theatre, before returning to Australia prior to World War II, when she became one of the first female radio announcers for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (then Commission) during the war as "The Forces Sweetheart". She returned to the English stage, and, in 1948, performed parts for the British Broadcasting Corporation, including a cameo role in the Chips Rafferty film Eureka Stockade . [6]

Ward returned to Australia, and made her first television appearance as a minor character in detective series The Vise originally titled Saber of London in 1954, and in the television movie The High-Flying Head the following year. She had starring roles in the television movies Marriage Lines and The Tower . She began working in television full-time in the mid-1970s, appearing in the series Rush , Homicide , and as Aunt Marian Castle in Don Chaffey's Harness Fever with Andrew McFarlane, Robert Bettles and Tom Farley (actor) in 1977. Harness Fever would later appear as a two-part episode, Born to Ride , on Wonderful World of Disney in 1979. She continued her stage work in the 1970s with the Melbourne Theatre Company, remaining with the company until 1983, performing in a David Williamson stage production. [8]

In 1978, Ward first appeared in one of her best known roles, "Mum" (Jeanette) Brooks, on the popular soap opera Prisoner. The series didn't go to air in Australia until February 1979. She portrayed an elderly institutionalised inmate, serving an eighteen-year prison sentence for the euthanisation of her terminally-ill husband. When the filming schedule for the series increased from one to two hours per week in 1979, she and co-star Carol Burns decided to leave the series. However, her character remained a popular one during the show's early years, and she reprised her role occasionally until her character died off-screen in 1983. [6] She starred with a number of her fellow Prisoner co-stars in the 1981 television movie I Can Jump Puddles as a character called Mrs. Birdsworth. Coincidentally, this was the surname of Sheila Florance's character Lizzie Birdsworth in Prisoner. After guest appearances on The Young Doctors in 1982 and A Country Practice opposite Prisoner star Lois Ramsey, she starred in Sons and Daughters as Dee Morrell during 1983. Ward starred in the short-lived 1985 television series The Henderson Kids and its 1987 follow-up series The Henderson Kids II . During the late-1980s, she had supporting roles in the films Jenny Kissed Me and Backstage as well as appearing in Neighbours in 1988. After starring in the 1989 television movie Darlings of the Gods , [10] she returned again to the theatre and, in 1991, appeared in the play Alive and Kicking . [8]

With the exception of an appearance in the television series The Damnation of Harvey McHugh in 1994, in the 1990s Ward remained largely absent from Australian television screens until 1998, appearing in the film Amy . Between 1999 and 2000, she played recurring character Betty Withers in the police drama Blue Heelers . Ward became a centenarian in 2015, and turned 102 in 2017. Although retired, she said she would still consider acting if the right role come about. [3]



Year Title Role Notes
1949 Eureka Stockade Lady Hotham
That Dangerous Age Nurse Released in the US as If This Be Sin
1976 Cry Your Purple Hear Out Mike Also known as How To Score With Girls
1986 Jenny Kissed Me Grace
1988 Backstage Geraldine Wollencraft
1997 Amy Mrs Mullins


Year Title Role Notes
1951 I Was a Stranger Official TV film
1954 The Vise Mrs Diana Campbell TV series
1955 The High-Flying Head Mrs Taylor TV film
1957 Roundabout TV film
1958 Captain Carvallo
1959 The Lark Queen Yolande Television play
1962 Marriage Lines TV film
The Teeth of the Wind TV film
1965 The Tower TV film
Otherwise Engaged Dorothy TV film
1974 Rush Mrs Hawk TV series
1975-1976 Homicide (3 roles) Mrs Parsons/ Margaret Lennox/ Mrs Phillips TV series
1977 Ride a Wild Pony Aunt Marian Castle Also known as Born to Run
1981 The Young Doctors Mrs Wilson TV series
Prisoner Janette "Mum" Brooks Also known as Prisoner: Cell Block H and Caged Women
I Can Jump Puddles Mrs Birdsworth TV series
1982 A Country Practice Thelma Thomas Episodes: The Seeds of Discontent (Parts 1 & 2)
1983 Sons and Daughters Dee Morrell 22 episodes
1984 Hot Pursuit Episode: Steel Trap
1985 The Henderson Kids Mrs Cathcart TV series
1987 The Henderson Kids II Mrs Cathcart TV series
1989 Neighbours Mrs Grainger 3 episodes
G.P. Jessie McLean TV series
Darlings of the Gods Barbara Ward TV mini-series
1992 The Late Show Lady Frontbottom 1 episode of The Olden Days (edited from Rush )
1994 The Damnation of Harvey McHugh Ivy TV series
1999-2000 Blue Heelers Betty Withers 3 episodes