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Colleen Powell (Judith McGrath)

The following character profile is written by Robert Lindsay (with a few additions).

Colleen first appeared as an Officer in 1980. Initially she was a semi-regular supporting character and therefore was usually not involved in major storylines or given anything particularly exciting to do. First seen in (48) unlocking the cells in the morning, and again in (65) where she is cast in the role of Union trouble-maker. At this stage she is a bit frumpy with her hair tied back and wearing granny glasses.

She appears uncredited (and with an unflattering perm) in (111) when Debbie Pearce has a day inside Wentworth: Officer Powell had supposedly observed one of these programs before.

She is responsible for calling Vera in to work in (155) when Vera is drunk and has her keys stolen by the prisoners. After this she begins to make slightly more frequent appearances: in (161) she is one of the officers sent to the rifle range by Stuart Gillespie for target practice.

By 1981 she had developed into quite a major character. She was a nasty, strict and sometimes aggressive officer and made many enemies amongst both the staff and the prisoners. Early on she took over as the Officer's Union Representative and was extremely militant in this role. One of her early achievements was to engineer the resignation of prison teacher David Andrews (194). She later instituted a strict enforcement of the Officers rules which the inmates obstructed by enforcing their own work-to-rules to sabotage Colleen's efforts. One of Colleen's rules was that all prisoners should be watched at all times, so the prisoners intentionally did things like run out of detergent or forget their mops which resulted in officers continually trudging the corridors of Wentworth with prisoners running trivial errands. When Colleen realised what was going on she gave the women lots of deadly glares and prompted Bea to observe that Colleen is really coming into her own. Bea says that an ambitious screw on the war-path is a very dangerous thing and that Colleen is certainly one to watch in the future. Vera is naturally quite impressed by Colleen's exploits. Colleen soon gets a nickname amongst the inmates: 'Po-face', a nickname that really suits her!

Colleen's popularity with the inmates wasn't helped when Colleen set up regular lagging sessions with inmate Kate Peterson.

Towards the end of her run in the series, Vera Bennett gradually softens in her strict attitudes. At this time Colleen begins to replace Vera as the 'nasty screw' in the series - but unlike Vera, Colleen actually carried out her threats and was therefore a much nastier proposition than Vera ever was. Colleen, however, would never do anything illegal and is soon surpassed in nastiness by new Officer Joan Ferguson...

After both Deputy Governor Jim Fletcher and senior officer Vera Bennett leave the series late 1981 / early 1982, Colleen starts an aggressive battle with Meg Morris over the position of Deputy Governor. Again Colleen gives lots of icy glares as she goes after this job with all the subtlety of a meat-axe. Eventually Meg gets the job but immediately decides she doesn't really want it - no doubt Colleen's shocking behaviour throughout contributed to Meg's change of mind - and so the job indeed goes to Colleen.

With the arrival of nice young inmate Susie Driscoll in early 1982, Colleen, who likens Susie to her own daughter Jennifer, becomes personally involved in Susie's welfare. This also prompts Colleen to generally loosen up and she becomes a considerably nicer person, but she can still be pretty strict at times. The arrival soon after of genuinely nasty officer, Joan Ferguson also seemed to help Colleen see the error of her ways.

Later we meet Colleen's family: husband Patrick, and children Jennifer and Robert. Colleen faces a major crisis when her daughter Jennifer, who is 15, is kidnapped by a gang (comprising a husband and wife and one accomplice). Colleen and Patrick face major dramas during this lengthy storyline - with Colleen's protectiveness coming out. Eventually one of the abductors rapes Jennifer. After the kidnappers are arrested and Jennifer rescued, the wife, Carol Lewis ends up in Wentworth. This posed the first problem of a warder having a personal interest in a prisoner since the Meg Jackson/Tracey Morris storyline of 1980. Actually the wife had helped Joanne and attempted to prevent the rape but this (quite understandably) made no difference to Colleen and Lewis was eventually transferred to keep the women apart.

Later her son Robert was taken ill with meningitis which he survived, although in the light of later events he should have died then to spare his mum later heartache!

In a turn-about move considering Colleen's earlier nastiness, in mid 1982 she teams with other staff members Steve Fawkner, Meg Morris and Erica Davidson in an attempt to get nasty new Officer Joan Ferguson sacked. Sadly this plan backfires and results in the forced resignation of Steve instead (316). Although Colleen had initially clashed with the casual and friendly Steve, by the time he left Colleen had come around and actually said that she was sorry to see him go.

When the big Wentworth fire occurs in late 1982 (326) it turns out the part of the reason for the severity of the blaze is Colleen's negligence at storing large quantities of turpentine in the storeroom. Poor Colleen feels very guilty about this but is nonetheless relieved when the truth is covered up.

In 1983 Colleen has another major personal storyline where she decides she's not really happy after 16 years of marriage and runs out on her husband and family one night (343). Poor Patrick and the children are devastated. Colleen who has by this time become good friends with Meg goes to stay at Meg's house. Soon Bob Young, the husband of current prisoner Janice Young, starts finding excuses to spend time with Colleen. He convinces Meg to have him come around and build some shelves in her flat. It soon turns out that he is attracted to Colleen and they have a brief affair! (349) This again faced Colleen with the prospect of a personal interest in a prisoner (or rather her hubby!) Soon Janice and Bea Smith got wind of this affair causing much discomfort for the usually officious Colleen! Anyway Colleen soon halted this affair and returned to her family.

Colleen suffers the indignity of being kidnapped herself by a mad bomber who had got into Wentworth (386). He had planted several bombs in the boiler room and tied Colleen up in there ready to be blown up! Colleen was rescued just in time though a bomb squad man was killed dismantling another bomb outside solitary intended to kill Bea.

The final straw came for Colleen when Pat, Jenny and Robert were all blown up by a car bomb. They were in the car owned by another officer, Rick Manning, and the bomb had been placed in the car by members of the underworld in retribution for events stemming from Rick's time as a policeman. Colleen and family turned up to Rick's place in their car and left it for Colleen and Rick to go on to work. Rick and Colleen were about to head off in her car while Pat took Rick's car off to repair it and drop the kids at school on the way. As the family got into the car the phone rang to warn Rick of the bomb but as Colleen reached the door to call Patrick the ignition key was turned and the car was blown up, killing her whole family (433).

Colleen again went to stay with Meg and drank lots of vodka to ease the pain. Eventually she went back to work at Wentworth for a while. She sold her home as it was too full of memories, then resigned from Wentworth to take an extended cruise around the world. On her last day at Wentworth in mid 1984 Colleen almost didn't make it out when she was taken hostage by crazed Nazi Peter Secker who was really after Hannah Geldschmidt. As Colleen patrols Wentworth for the last time (456) Meg tells her she overheard one of the inmates saying that "the place wont be the same without old Po-face!". It wasn't.

The list of episodes Colleen appeared in from the old Prisoner fanzine, Blockade...(48) (65) (71) (76)-(77) (80) (193)-(200) (202)-(203) (211)-(213) (223)-(456) - thanks to Alan Shade for the info. 

Updated 01 January 1998

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