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Joan Ferguson (Maggie Kirkpatrick)

She arrives as a new officer in (287), and immediately volunteers to take part in a cell search for grog, but discovers instead the hiding place for money in the heel of Chrissie's shoe and cottons on quickly to the fact that someone is running a book, catching Doreen with the take at the end of the same episode after pulling on black leather gloves to give her a body search. She keeps most of it and gives the rest to Erica, then gives the rest back to Faye in return for a cut of her proceeds.

The women quickly realise that Joan is a lesbian, and indeed she has already taken a fancy to Hannah Simpson at her induction and plants suspicion that Hannah is stealing the women's money so she may arrive as they are bashing Hannah to "save" her. Joan puts both Meg and Steve in her debt by foiling Duncan Campell's heavies who attempt to take Meg hostage to snatch Hannah from court (290) and by lying to discredit Chrissie Latham's allegation of rape against Steve. The first of many attempts to discredit Joan is organised by Bea, who gets the women to donate "presents" for Hannah and imply in officers' hearing that they have come from Joan, but Joan makes Chrissie inform on the plot and undermines it. Hannah complains of sexual harassment from Joan.

When Chrissie returns to Wentworth after her escape, Joan taunts her into a fight, and Chrissie is badly injured (298), and even though Chrissie clears Joan, Erica tries to find out about Joan's previous service in Queensland.

The arrival of Maxine Daniels (298) spells further trouble for Joan, as she tells Hannah about Joan's relationship with a prisoner who was killed by the other inmates (300) and Hannah lays a formal complaint against Joan. Erica is unable to get the details from the Governor in Queensland, and is unable to prevent Joan's promotion to senior officer rank (301).

Bea organises protests against Joan, but Joan outmanoeuvres them all. Meg's brief stretch in Wentworth as a prisoner convinces her that Joan is dealing with the women, and Erica reluctantly agrees to go along with an attempt to entrap Joan into providing them with evidence (312). Joan takes Barbara Fields' papers to force her to inform on Meg and Steve's activities (314) so she is able to turn the tables by reporting them to Erica (316).

Joan's ambitious streak first shows itself through her attempts to use Margo Gaffney to cause trouble over the joint concert with Woodridge and discredit Colleen (319) but when she hurts Lizzie attempting to prevent Margo's escape, Bea decides more drastic action is needed. Barbara Fields has gained possession of Joan's diary and Bea uses this to trick Joan into looking for it as Margo and Chrissie start fires. Joan is eventually forced by Paddy to help Bea to safety (327).

Shortly after Joan returns to work (334), Nola McKenzie arrives and Joan involves herself in Nola's rackets to try to install Nola in Bea's place. Their cosy set-up is exposed by Jill Knight who arrives in (349) to carry out a Departmental investigation undercover as a prisoner, but Joan forces the Department to remove her by revealing her identity. Nola's drug dealing closely following on Bea's escape (353) forces Erica to resign, and Ted Douglas urges Joan to apply for the Governorship (362).

Bea deposes Nola as top dog (364), so Joan decides that Bea must go, and tells Nola to use Zara Moonbeam, a fraudulent medium, to convince Bea that her daughter Debbie is trying to contact her. Joan butters up the new Governor, Ann Reynolds, and feeds her details about other staff members (367). Joan's plan to provide Bea with a zip gun to commit suicide only gives Bea the means to dispose of Nola (369).

No sooner has Joan been cleared of any involvement when a new prisoner, Tracey Belman, accuses Joan of sexual harassment (370) of which she is also soon cleared. Joan is soon able to gain back some credibility by her handling of a siege, by talking her neighbour Carol Coulson into giving herself up after she has stabbed her husband (375), and her visits to Carol's daughter Jilly are the first hint of Joan's maternal side. She is compromised again by the appearance of her niece Lucy (385) who is later brought to Wentworth on drugs charges (387) and blackmails Joan into arranging her escape (389).

Joan meets her next major antagonist/victim when she returns to work after the lassa fever outbreak and inducts Sonia Stevens (394), tricking her into paying for an escape then preventing it (396). Sonia suggests that Joan has Bea transferred to allow her to take over as top dog, and to this end they team up in the production of illicit booze (399). Joan sets Bea up for fighting to get her to solitary, then taunts her into attacking her, resulting in Bea's transfer to Barnhurst (400).

However, two new prisoners arrive to cause Joan and Sonia problems: Cass Parker is transferred from Barnhurst after killing an officer (403) and Minnie Donovan is convicted for running a shoplifting gang (405). Minnie and Cass team up and oust Sonia as top dog, who tries to recover her position by making a tape of her conversation with Joan and using it to force Joan to bring drink into the prison (407). The tape is smuggled out of the prison through Brenda Hewitt and Joan finds herself blackmailed by an associate of Lionel Fellowes (411).

An attempt by Minnie to fix Joan turns into a full scale lynching (411), but when Joan discharges herself from hospital to pay the blackmailer, he has already been killed on Fellowes' instructions. Joan is given LSD by Fellowes' henchmen to warn her off (413), but eventually manages to do a deal with Fellowes to leave both her and Wentworth alone (416).

While Ann is in hospital for a mastectomy and Colleen is Acting Governor, Joan turns her attention to Minnie and Cass again, framing them for tying her up in the shower block (417) and then framing Cass for poisoning Minnie (418). The rooftop protest that results leads to Meg's demotion and Joan becoming Acting Deputy to Colleen (419). Joan witnesses Colleen running a man over (420) and uses it to strengthen her position, becoming Acting Governor in Colleen's place in (422).

Her triumph is short-lived, when the Department send Erica Davidson into Wentworth to investigate Meg's complaints, and at the same time the women use a visit by Joan's father to humiliate her (424). Meg is reinstated as Acting Deputy (425).

Joan finds that she has other worries when Reb Kean's friends kidnap her father in an attempt to get Reb out of prison. The women prevent Joan taking Reb to hospital as arranged until she has cleared Colleen and offered her own resignation. Joan is taken with Reb by the kidnappers, and she eventually kills one of them with his own gun (426).

Joan persaudes Ann to allow her to take back her resignation (427) and seems to have turned over a new leaf, and tells Sonia she won't be involved in her rackets any more, but when she returns after visiting her father (435), she is determined to make Reb pay for the harm she has done him.

She is diverted by Myra Desmond's entry into Wentworth, especially after she is made top dog, and tries to set her up for attacks on her rival Gloria. When Joan visits her father again (445), we find out more about her relationship with Audrey Forbes, though the visit to Sydney allows her to find Bobbie Mitchell (446) and through her to trace Sonia after their abduction from Wentworth.

After Colleen leaves, Joan's bid for Deputy is blocked by a newspaper article by Camilla Wells, but Meg's appointment is reviewable, giving Joan the opportunity to attempt to discredit her and by (462) she is aiming for Ann's job as well, using Marie Winter to start a riot (466), but the plan backfires: Ann is reinstated (469) for her heroism during the riot, Heather Rogers becomes suspicious of Joan's part in it and Marie Winter demands Joan's help with her escape and to get revenge on Reb before she goes. Joan sets Reb up to be bashed by Marie, but Reb accuses Joan of the bashing (471).

To add to her troubles, Joan is arrested for abducting Shane Munro, whom she befriends after finding him when he breaks into her flat (462). Even after charges are dropped, Joan is again asked to resign (474), but this time the officers are reluctantly forced to strike to support her and she returns to work in (477).

Heather asks the women's support in framing Joan for the sexual harassment of Pixie Mason (484), but the plot fails and Heather is dismissed. Joan tries to take revenge against Reb by pushing her over a railing (486) but has to be rescued by Reb when she slips and nearly falls over herself. Her second attempt involves manipulating the cook Ray Procter into arranging an accident for Reb in the kitchen. He fails (495) and Reb makes him sign a statement about Joan's plot. Joan eventually engineers Reb's transfer to Blackmoor (503) but not before working with her to oppose the ambitious new male officer Len Murphy.

When Ann collapses and has to take leave, Joan expects to made Governor again, but Len takes up the post with Joyce as Deputy (508). Joan gets her revenge when Pixie is raped by Frank Burke, and Joan gets Myra to help her frame Len for the attack (512). She is called to her father's bedside, and he dies in (523) and phones a friend at Blackmoor to get her to get back at Reb (526).

She starts to pick on a new arrival, Lexie Patterson, but Lexie gets Frank Burke to fix her, which he does by pushing a bookcase on top of her (531). Joan starts to suffer blackouts and memory loss, which is exploited by the women, and Joan is framed for bashing Lou Kelly and suspended (536). A brain clot is discovered and Joan has emergency surgery, while the Department try to contact her to tell her she has been reinstated after Anita Selby breaks the no lagging rule and informs on the plot.

When Joan returns to work (540), there have been new transfers from Barnhurst after a fire there, and Ruth Ballinger has been brought to Wentworth to get her to inform on her husband's criminal activities. Of more immediate importance for Joan is the transfer of Terri Malone (541), who first conspires with her to frame Lou and Myra, and later becomes her lover. Ruth Ballinger also offers to get rid of Lou and Myra if Joan will bring drugs in for her, and Joan is then blackmailed by Ruth with incriminating photographs (545), but this does not stop Joan bashing Ruth when she finds out about her involvement with child prostitution and pornography. Joan spoils the escape arranged for Ruth after Ruth's attempt to kill Myra goes wrong (550), and is taken hostage during the attempt by armed gunmen to storm the prison and free Ruth, but she and the driver shoot the gunmen at the airport to which Ruth is taken (553).

After a fire at Joan's house arranged by Lionel Fellowes, Terri insists that Joan moves in with her (555) and Joan is eventually forced to do a deal with Fellowes to get him to cancel the contract on her (557). Her relationship with Terri is put under strain by the attitude of Terri's parents (565) and Terri's resignation after the prison newspaper prints details of their affair (568). The final straw is when Joan discovers that Terri is sleeping with her boss and Terri has to leave (576).

Cynthia calls in her favour: Reb is to be transferred back to Wentworth, and Cynthia to make sure she does not reveal her mistreatment at Blackmoor (577). Reb turns out to be frightened and confused, and Joan finds herself accused of the attack she made on Reb in (486) when Reb remembers it (579). Joan tries to push Reb into suicide (581) but Reb is eventually released.

Meanwhile, Joan's last main antagonist, Rita Connors, has arrived (586): Joan suspects her of knocking her out and putting her in the drier (592) and the war heats up when Rita contacts her bikie friends and gets them to wreck Joan's house (596). As revenge, Joan sets fire to the Conquerors' bikes (597), which provokes a gang fight in which Rita's boyfriend is killed. Eve Wilder lags to Joan about who really put her in the drier, and Joan is taken hostage during the subsequent disturbances and set against Rita for a fight to the death (602), but is saved by Bob Moran.

After several scenes establishing her loneliness (612), we are prepared for Joan meeting a new friend, Andrew Hinton in (614), and their platonic friendship develops to the stage where she moves in with him after the Conquerors take their revenge and burn down her house (625). When she discovers that Terri had allowed her insurance to lapse, she is tempted to take up Amy Ryan's offer of payment if she will increase Julie Egbert's sentence to prevent her marrying her son Steve (624) and gets Kath Maxwell to drug her, but her involvement in running drugs into Wentworth brings her to the attention of crime boss Harry Parker (628) and she unwisely asks his assistance in getting the Conquerors off her back (631) When Sandra Williams is caught bringing drugs into Wentworth by Rodney, Harry Parker retaliates by having Andrew killed in a hit and run accident (635) and threatening his daughter Jenny (636). Joan is forced to go to the police with the whole story, and Inspector Grace sets Joan up to visit Harry Parker wearing a bugged cameo brooch to get him to confess (636).

After Parker is murdered in police custody, Rita declares she will settle accounts with Joan and attacks her with a knife (637) and has another go during the work experience on the boat, but when Rita is hanging precariously from a cliff, Joan pulls her to safety (644).

Joan cultivates Kath and uses her friendship with Rodney, suggesting a shop (661), ostensibly to help overcome the contraband problem, but really to provide an outlet for booze and drugs collected by Kath on her shopping trips outside.

While Ann is away at a conference, Joan takes the opportunity to get rid of Rita by framing her for destroying the shop, and transfers her to Blackmoor (665). Unfortunately, Rita burns the place down and is transferred back with other prisoners and the Governor of Blackmoor, Ernest Craven (669). Joan plots with him to depose Ann, but is appalled when he sets up Lorelei to be raped by two male prisoners (670) and outraged when Craven is appointed Governor in Ann's place (671) and has to blackmail him to step down in her favour.

Joan consolidates her position as Governor by transferring Meg, Joyce and Marty to other prisons (675), but her fondness for Lorelei makes her deliver a tape made by the women to Ingleside, which promotes Lorelei's recovery. Lorelei is able to appear on a TV documentary exposing Craven's cruel regime (679) after which the Minister is forced to reinstate Ann, and Joan is demoted back to officer rank.

Joan is disgusted at the Minister's betrayal and takes leave of absence to look for other jobs (679). She first gets a job as functions manager in a restaurant, but leaves after losing her temper with a stroppy customer (682), then gets a job with a security firm where she is given a series of demeaning tasks. When she confronts her boss, she is amazed to recognise Willie Beecham, who threatens her to prevent her getting any other job (683): a threat that turns out to be well founded.


This time the Minister refuses to help her, and tells Joan she will have to return to Wentworth (686). The women find they are able to freely insult Joan (689) and their pressure makes her take up Rita's offer, made while Joan is accompanying her to hospital for chemotherapy treatment, to join with her in a robbery on a finance company (690). Rita is to rob the company, then hide the money and allow herself to be recaptured, and Joan is to collect it later. Joan helps Rita to escape (691) but hesitates to collect the money until the police tell her that Rita has died. Joan is arrested outside the finance company (692), and is appalled to realise that she is to be taken to Wentworth as a prisoner. She gloats when she hears the women chanting her name, but is stopped in her tracks when her meal is brought in by Rita, and realises that she has finally been outsmarted.

Updated ~ 08 August 1997

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