Vanessa Downing

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Vanessa Downing
Born (1958-05-05) 5 May 1958 (age 66)
Other namesVanessa Ryan
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
  • Actress (stage, television and film)
  • singer
  • recording artist
  • voice artist
  • lawyer
Years active1977–present
Known forHome and Away as Pippa Fletcher (1988-1990)
SpouseRodney Fischer (Director/writer)

Vanessa Downing (born 5 May 1958) also known as Vanessa Ryan, is an Australian actress and singer, voice artist and lawyer

Downing was appearing with singing group The Madrigals, an acapella group who were performing at the Sydney Opera House, when she was given the role of matriarch foster mother Pippa Fletcher in Home and Away.[1]

Downing other than her TV and film roles, is also a prominent actor in theatre, who has appeared in numerous productions.

She is also a lawyer with law firm Craddock Murray Neumann, a role she juggles alongside her acting career.[2]


After leaving school, Downing attended the University of Sydney, and attained her master's degree in English Literature. She subsequently trained in drama at the Australian Theatre for Young People.

Her early roles were in theatre starting from 1977, and roles include Three a Penny, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and King Lear. She is a well-known and prominent stage actress and has featured in many productions[3]

Television roles starting from the early 1980s include classic '80s soap opera Sons and Daughters, G.P., Water Rats, HeadLand,,All Saints and Packed to the Rafters. She had a role in the Kingswood Country re-boot series Bullpitt!, and has appeared in numerous miniseries and made-for-TV films.

Home and Away[edit]

Downing is best known for her regular role as 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, the wife of newsreader Mike Willesee, at short notice. The casting news hit the headlines at the publicity launch of the soap. The role had been auditioned for by future Neighbours star Jackie Woodburne.

When Downing left the series in 1990, the part was recast, and taken over at short notice by Debra Lawrance who went on to play the character from 1990 to 1998, with subsequent guest appearances. After Lawrance took over the role, the character remarried to Michael Ross (played by Lawrance's husband Dennis Coard) and now known as Pippa Ross, was awarded a fictitious OAM for her services as a foster parent.

Post-Home and Away[edit]

Post-Home and Away, Downing has continued to work extensively in theatre, though she has continued to appear on TV. She had guest roles in Water Rats, All Saints, Big Sky, G.P., A Country Practice, Bullpitt!, Funeral Going, Double Sculls, Melba and Packed to the Rafters.

Downing also studied law, becoming a part-time lawyer in 2006. She specialised in immigration law for many years and worked for a law firm in Sydney.[4]

Vanessa appeared in several shorts during 2020 and 2022, the most recent being Voice Activated. In October 2022, Vanessa was a guest on Ray Meagher's This is Your Life episode[5] where she appeared alongside fellow ”Early Years" cast members Roger Oakley (Tom), Alex Papps (Frank) and Sharyn Hodgson (Carly).



Year Title Role Notes
1985 The Boy Who Had Everything College Girl singer Feature film
1986 Funeral Going Patricia Film short
1987 The Everlasting Secret Family Woman Judge Feature film
1993 The Nostradamus Kid 'General Booth Enters Heaven' Strolling Players Feature film
1994 Mary Flora MacKillop Feature film documentary
1998 Reflections Mrs. O'Brien Feature film
2008 Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger Music Teacher Feature film
2013 Felony Manny Summer Feature film
2015 Stationery Penny Wilkins Film short
2022 The Immortal Lucy (age 50) Film short
2021 Shark Jack’s Mum Film short
2022 Voice Activated Hazel Film short


Year Title Role Notes
1980 The Restless Years Georgie (as Vanessa Ryan) TV series, 1 episode
1982 Sons and Daughters Cheryl Ryan (as Vanessa Ryan) TV series, 2 episodes: "1.44", "1.60"
1983 The Disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain Mrs. Lowe TV film
1985 I Can't Get Started Check-out Girl TV film
1985 Double Sculls Sister Cathy TV film
1987 Melba Evie Doyle TV miniseries, 2 episodes
1988–90 Home and Away Pippa Fletcher TV series, 361 episodes
1990 Motormouth Guest TV series, 1 episode
1990 TV Celebrity Dance Party Herself (as The Madrigirls) TV special
1991 A Country Practice Fiona Farrell TV series, 1 episode: "For the Good Times: Part 1"
1993 Good Morning Australia Guest TV series, 1 episode
1993 The Midday Show Guest TV series, 1 episode
1993 G.P. Pam Preston TV series, 1 episode: "Close to Her Chest"
1997 Water Rats Margaret Hobbs TV series, 1 episode: "The Messenger"
1997 Big Sky Danielle Morgan TV series, 1 episode: "The Right Thing"
1997–98 Bullpitt! Muriel Johnstone TV series
1998, 2002 All Saints Helen Lancaster / Claire Hobson TV series, 3 episodes: "Live Now, Pay Later", "Slings and Arrows"
2006 HeadLand Pamela Martin TV series, 3 episodes: "1.50", "1.51", "1.52"
2006 Where Are They Now? Herself (with Home and Away cast) TV series, 1 episode
2008 Packed to the Rafters Shirley TV series, 1 episode: "Removing the Block"
2012 Rake Judge TV series, 1 episode
2014 The Moodys Robin Benson TV series, 1 episode: "Australia Day"
2019 Mr Inbetween Lorraine TV series, 1 episode: "I Came from Your Balls?"
2020 Black Comedy TV series, 1 episode
2022 This Is Your Life: Ray Meagher Herself (with Roger Oakley, Alex Papps & Sharyn Hodgson) TV series, 1 episode


Source: AusStage

Year Production Details
1977 Twenty Six Efforts at Pornography 1 show (NSW)
1977 The Sunny South 1 show (NSW)
1977 Narrow Road to the Deep North 1 show
1980 The Ship’s Whistle 1 show (South Australia)
1980 Pericles, Prince of Tyre 1 show (South Australia)
1980 Traitors 1 show (South Australia)
1980 A Month in the Country 1 show (South Australia)
1980 The Ship’s Whistle 1 show (South Australia)
1981 Upstairs Down at the Bottom of the World 1 show (South Australia)
1981 Buckleys! 1 show (South Australia)
1981 Kangaroos in the Top Paddock 1 show (South Australia)
1981 As You Like It 2 shows (South Australia)
1981 The Threepenny Opera 1 show
1982 Charley’s Opera 23 shows (NSW)
1983 Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You 1 show (NSW)
1983 The Actor's Nightmare 1 show (NSW)
1984 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 4 shows
1984 Key Largo 4 shows
1984 Don's Party 4 shows (Queensland)
1984 Beach Blanket Tempest 7 shows (national tour - QLD, SA, ACT)
1984 Private Lives 2 shows
1985 Steaming 2 shows (NSW, ACT)
1986 Away 1 show (NSW)
1986 The Madras House
1986 Measure for Measure 1 show (NSW)
1987 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 4 shows (South Australia)
1988 The 16th Australian National Playwrights Conference 1 show (NSW)
1989 Ring Round the Moon 1 show (South Australia)
1990 The Increased Difficulty of Concentration 1 show (NSW)
1990 Season’s Greetings 1 show (Queensland)
1992 St James Infirmary Blues 1 show (NSW)
1992 The Heiress 1 show
1993 Daylight Saving 1 show (NSW)
1993 Wet and Dry 1 show (NSW)
1994 Composing Venus 1 show (Queensland)
1994 Goodworks 1 show (NSW)
1995 Falling from Grace ACT
1995 Three Birds Alighting on a Field 1 show (South Australia)
1995 How the Other Half Lives 1 show (NSW)
1996 Live Stages on Stage 1 show (NSW)
1996 Good Works 2 shows (SA, NSW)
1998 Chasing the Drama 1 show (NSW)
1991 Macbeth NSW
2000 A Cheery Soul 1 show (NSW)
2001 Love Bites 1 show (NSW)
2001 Morning Sacrifice 1 show (NSW)
2002 The Lady in the Van 1 show (NSW)
2002 Hello, Dolly! 1 show (Victoria)
2003 Mother and Child 1 show (NSW)
2003 Howard Katz 1 show (NSW)
2004 Afterplay / The Yalta Game 1 show (NSW)
Influence 4 shows (national tour)
2006 Bone 1 show (NSW)
2007 King Lear 7 shows (NSW)
2008 The Busy World is Hushed 1 show (NSW)
2009 The Taming of the Shrew 9 shows
2011-12 Faustus 2 shows (NSW)
2012 Pygmalion. 1 show (NSW)
2013 The Glass Menagerie 2 shows (NSW)
2013-14 Much Ado About Nothing 3 shows (NSW)
2013-14 Cyrano de Bergerac 2 shows (NSW)
2018-20 Black is the New White 8 shows (national tour)
2020 Wicked Sisters 1 show (NSW)


  1. ^ Oram, James "Home and Away:Behind the Scenes"
  2. ^ "Home and Away flashback! The original cast reunited". 10 May 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Vanessa Downing". AusStage.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Returning: This is Your Life | TV Tonight".

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