Maggie Dence and Kim Williams

More than 200 people gathered at the Independent Theatre in North Sydney last night to honour Maggie Dence, the recipient of the 2011 Equity Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Foxtel.

From 1966-1968 Maggie played various characters, including Mavis, on influential comedy program The Mavis Bramston Show. She also played the snobbish Merle Bulpitt in Kingswood Country, the sweet Rose Sullivan in The Sullivans, evil psychopath Bev "The Beast" Baker in Prisoner and school teacher Dorothy Burke in Neighbours.

Maggie was awarded the 2011 Equity Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Foxtel for her extensive stage and screen credits and her commitment to the Actors Benevolent Fund (ABF), which provides assistance to performers who, due to injury, illness or disability are unable to work. Maggie was on the board of the ABF for 24 years.

There was no shortage of influential Australian performers who wanted to pay tribute to Maggie at last night’s ceremony, which was hosted by Equity president Simon Burke. The stars of the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Revue – Drew Forsythe, Jonathan Biggins, Phil Scott and Amanda Bishop – performed a sketch in Maggie’s honour. Tony Sheldon sent his congratulations from New York, where he is currently starring in Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The musical and Jacki Weaver’s tribute, via video message from the US, left not a dry eye in the house.

Watch Tony Sheldon’s video message.

The Equity Lifetime Achievement Award was established by the Equity Foundation in 2009, with the generous support of Foxtel, to recognise the achievements of a leading Australian performer and their contribution to the industry.

Actors Equity president, Simon Burke said; “It was Maggie’s extensive stage and screen credits, as well as her commitment to the Actors Benevolent Fund, that inspired Australian performers to award Maggie this year’s Equity Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Foxtel.”

Watch Barry Creyton’s video message.

At last night’s ceremony Maggie was also honoured by the co-stars, young and old, who have worked with her at various stages in her career.  Her dear friend Michael Craig delivered a speech as did her Out of the Blue co-star Katie Hicks and Kristian Schmid, who worked with her on Neighbours, before Maggie was presented with her award by Foxtel chief executive and managing director Kim Williams AM.

“Foxtel is once again the proud sponsor of the 2011 Equity Lifetime Achievement Award and is excited that this year’s recipient is the prolific and talented actress Maggie Dence.” said Williams.

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