Home' D Fine Redland Lifestyle Magazine : March 2010 Contents 6 d'fine magazine March 9, 2010
Main photo: Melissa Gibson
Talk to Louise Yates and "serendipitous" is a
word that keeps cropping up -- like the
time her on-screen foster father in Bellbird
became her on screen real father in Cop Shop.
And that simmering Bellbird romance that never
quite left the subliminal with actor Greg Ross
developed into boyfriend and ultimately
husband material in another show.
This spooky sort of coincidence tells Louise she
is in a place she needs to be. And this is a good
place to be.
Louise (then Louise Philip) started as an actress
at age 15 in 1972, playing guest roles in Matlock
Police and Division Four. In 1972, she signed a
contract for Bellbird, playing the foster child of Joe
and Olive Turner. But life changed for the up and
coming actress in December that year when she
and her father, brother, sister and friend were
involved in a fatal head-on collision at Gundagai.
All five sustained serious injuries with Louise
suffering a spinal injury leaving her in a
wheelchair for life.
"I was told I would never go back to television.It
was a funny time but I was determined and
perhaps there was a bit of sympathy towards
giving me a go, " she said.
"A friend of mine was quoted as saying 'Louise
walks with her mind.She will never stumble'.It was
a profound moment," she said.
But with the disability, Louise said she realised
the expectation placed on her not only by a
television audience but by her family, following
an accident deemed'the will of God'.
"I felt the need to pick up and move on.You must
remember I wasn't the only one injured. My father
and sister were seriously injured. Dad (the driver)
punished himself for years and years," she said.
I was one of six children in the
family and I was told 'thank God it
happened to you' because I was
the one that had the confidence to
manage it (the disability). I was a
very gutsy, determined young
Louise said it was common on those days to be
described as a "cripple" and considered a burden.
"I was told that the ABC was not a charity and I
might have a brighter future on radio. But there
were rumblings among the cast. They were a
bunch of actors with sweet, soft hearts and they
wanted me back in the series (Bellbird)."
Eight months later she was back for a two-
month trial that extended until 1976.
"It was enormous for Bellbird to have an actor
with an actual disability. It was hugely successful
and I was given a new role within the series as Dr
Reid's secretary (Dr Reid was played by Alan
In 1976, Louise travelled overseas, well before
the Year of the Disability and well before the days
of wheelchair access.
In 1978, she was offered a role in Cop Shop,
playing Claire for four years, the daughter of
"I was initially offered a three month role
playing an inhibited,behind-closed-doors cripple
who lived as a recluse and who was hidden."
But this changed when Louise had a long talk
about all the "deep and meaningfuls" with script
writer Gwenda Marsh.
"I was engaged to be married and leading a fun,
interesting life. We talked about a storyline
reflecting a new era where people with
disabilities could be portrayed as strong,
independent people with intellect. We talked
about the horrible things and the nice things --
about sexuality,hardship -- life.And we developed
In 1980, Gwenda was interviewed for The Age
newspaper and was quoted as saying how proud
she was to have a program that was about real
characters with real storylines and a genuine
depth to the scripts.
AS an actress,
Yates, 53, of
Cleveland, likes to
tell stories. But few
would be as
as her own.
Continued page 7
By Linda Muller
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