Star actress still struggles despite success by Marcus Priaulx 17 January 2014
eah Purcell remembers the first day school finally made sense to her. She had written a story for her Year-7 teacher and it came back covered in red ink with a big See Me scrawled across the page. Leah thought she was in trouble. But when she fronted Mrs (Rosemary) Bishop at the end of the day she was asked to enter her work into a Murgon Lions Rotary Writing competition. “I asked ‘why?” Leah said. “It was full of spelling and grammar mistakes. But Mrs Bishop said ‘it’s a great story, I’ll help you with the other stuff. You’re a great story teller”. From that day on Leah went from being a child who walked through the front gate at school and over the back fence, to one who turned up at 8.30am eager to learn. “I’d found something I was good at,” she said. “At home I was surrounded by people who could tell a great yarn and deliver a punch line better than any famous comedian. It may have been done over a carton at times but it came from centuries of oral tradition. “Then there was Mrs Bishop and a couple of teachers at high school who encouraged me to
Leah Purcell with her Redfern Now family, including co-star Alex Doomadgee. Image supplied
put my head down and try hard.” Childhood actions make life tough Leah admits she was always a reluctant student though. “I was a hardhead; more destructive to myself, a ratbag,” she said. “I put a ‘zero’ on my maths test in Year 8 and went for a walk. “I wasn’t a terrible kid, or a bully, I just played on the fact I was a card and would bullshit my way out of class and take halfan-hour to get a drink of water.” Today, Leah looks back wishing she had a better attitude to her schooling. She is now part of a Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council campaign to have every parent in the country send their children to school every day, on time. Leah still has family members who live in Cherbourg and Murgon
and was quick to let students know how difficult it is for her today because of the schooling she missed during a recent visit home and to her former Murgon State High School. The star actor, writer, director struggles with her craft because “I missed a lot of the basics to build on”. “It’s made life a little harder,” she said. “I’ve panicked and put unnecessary stress on myself at auditions because I’ve been asked to do a cold-read; read bits of scripts on the spot. I wouldn’t know how to pronounce a word or what it might mean. I’d go to the toilet and ring my mates back home to help me!!! Leah would usually take hours to look through her lines at home with a dictionary close to hand before fronting casting agents. What would normally
take somebody 10 minutes to read would sometimes take Leah an hour but she had to do it if she wanted to succeed and live a happy, productive life. The benefits of effort “I want to live a fulfilling life so I’ve had to put in the hard yards,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still learn. “I’m learning every day. “I now want all children and parents to realise the effort they put in now will pay them in bucket loads; not always tomorrow, but maybe the next day, or even years down the track. “Every day does count to a happier future and I urge parents to send their children to school every day, on time so they can have a great life and be the best person that they can be.”
Leah Purcell remembers the first day school finally made sense to her. She had written a story for her Year-7 teacher and it came back cover...