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Comment > Love Thy Neighbour: Susan Kennedy by Callum

On 3rd October 1994, a new family moved into 28 Ramsay Street, replacing the much loved Willises, a family many thought they would never get used to. 20 years on, the Kennedys are one of, if not, the most beloved families to grace Ramsay Street. At the heart of that family was matriarch, Susan, who would go on to not only become Neighbours' longest-serving female character but also frequently be voted the most popular...

As Susan first set foot on Ramsay Street, we discovered that Karl had bought the house without discussing it with his wife and quickly learnt that as well as being a wife and mother, Susan excelled at being a mediator between her husband and children, a role she still plays today between Karl and whoever his latest irritant happens to be. Meanwhile, Susan began giving piano lessons and working in the coffee shop, even taking over as Manager briefly before deciding to return to teaching. Having put her career on hold to raise her family and allowing Karl to progress his career in Medicine, Susan accepted a position at Erinsborough High, much to the distain of her children, Malcolm, Libby and Billy, but soon won them around as she proved popular with the other students due to her approachable and open manner.

Indeed it was whilst acting as the school's chaperone to student, Brett Stark, as he won a trip to Kenya as part of the World Vision essay competition in 1995 that we learnt what is truly at the core of Susan's personality, her inner strength, something she had to develop as a teenager having seen her mother dying of cancer and finding the courage to euthanize her. As she revealed her actions to Brett, Susan explained that it "very important to mum that everyone would think she was the rock of Gibraltar... That she could cope with anything" and we have frequently seen this in Susan herself, that whilst strong she has a big heart that can be broken. Over the years we have seen Susan hurt by Karl's betrayal with Sarah and their later divorce, but her devastation has usually only been seen behind closed doors, such as when Karl told her of Izzy's pregnancy in 2004. As Karl left Number 28, we saw Susan winded by the news before picking herself up and finding the strength to storm after Karl and berate him for having thanked her for being so understanding and announcing that she hated him. In fact, it was Susan who visibly came out strongest from the divorce, re-establishing herself as a single woman and giving both herself and her home a makeover, showing her friends and family that like her mother, she was that rock. Susan's core strength has seen her through many situations that others would struggle with, surviving two nights in the Bass Strait after the Lassiter's joy flight was bombed, being held hostage by a former student teacher and performing an emergency tracheotomy on Lou as Karl instructed her over the phone during a tornado.

Of course, Susan's biggest test of character was her diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007. As Susan temporarily lost her sight, we saw her at her most vulnerable, frightened and afraid as she went to the MRI scanner, but even her main concern was for her children. The story was praised by MS sufferers and the MS society for the way it was portrayed and rightly so. The MS storyline was possibly Jackie Woodburne's finest hour as she was forced to take a character she had played so strongly for 13 years and show just how terrified Susan was at the uncertainty of her undiagnosed condition and the possibility of a debilitating disease, as well as having to live with her accidental hit and run on Bridget Parker. Being Susan though, once diagnosed with relapse remitting MS, she found the strength to live her life to the fullest.

Having been convicted with a suspended sentence over Bridget's accident, Susan found a new career in journalism, not wanting to risk the chance of her teaching licence being revoked due to her criminal conviction and ending her career on a sour note, rising to the ranks of Editor at the Erinsborough News. Journalism never quite sat rightly for the character of Susan though, with Libby having been the journalist in the family up until then. Thankfully though, Susan saw sense and returned to teaching in 2013 as she accepted the job as Principal at the school, albeit with the conviction quietly swept into the depths of Lassiter's Lake, but Susan is to Erinsborough High what Karl is to Erinsborough Hospital and recently we have seen with Bailey that "Mrs K" has still got it as she helped him find the confidence to speak at the Erinsborough Story Slam by encouraging him to speak from the heart. Hopefully we will see Susan continue to mentor Bailey further as she did in the past with the likes of Brett, Toadie, Tad and Stingray and countless others over the years.

In any other character, Susan's willingness to take back Karl over and over may have been considered weakness, but it has been firmly established that she and Karl are soulmates, with a knowledge and understanding of each other so intrinsic that even when divorced Susan could reassure her eventual husband, Alex Kinski, about his children Rachel and Zeke that "Karl will look after them" "I know he will" and truly know he would. That even despite the hurt she could care for Karl enough that having told him that Izzy had lied to him about the paternity of the child she miscarried, she joined him as he sat alone on a bench and without words offered her support, a testament to Jackie Woodburne's acting skill that just through her eyes and facial expression that she could say more than pages of dialogue ever could and show how Karl and Susan's bond will always bring them back together, whatever has happened in the past.

Jackie's use of facial expression truly comes into it's own in Susan's comedic scenes, be it when the infamous blue box is brought out or Susan uses her womanly wiles by going on 'strike' to get Karl to put an end to a feud with a neighbour or buy a new dishwasher, it would be impossible to keep count of the amount of times Susan has rolled her eyes at Karl over the past 20 years, or the amount of times that we have laughed at them and with them. What is clear though that as much as Jackie relishes the challenge of the high drama, the way her eyes light up in a comedic scene show just how much fun both she and Susan are having as they show Karl who's boss.

Twenty years on it would be hard to imagine Ramsay Street without the Kennedys, despite many of us having experienced it, and long may their reign continue. Quite rightly Susan has earned a place in the hearts of Neighbours viewers across the globe and we look forward to sharing more laughs, more tears and hope to experience more drama together for a long time to come.