Journalist, writer, television scriptwriter, playwright.
Sheila Sibley's career as a writer began during World War II. While serving as an army nurse, she wrote a number of poems that were influenced by her experiences (several of these were published in 1989 as part of the Poets in Uniform anthology). After being discharged with the rank of corporal, Sibley sent her poem 'Ballad of a Convict's Daughter' to Horace Keats, who saw great possibilities in the work and very quickly set the words to music. According to the composer's daughter, the song (one of the last he wrote before his death in August that same year), was published and printed by W. H. Paling shortly after it was written (Biography of Horace Keats).
During the 1950s and 1960s, Sibley carved out a career as a columnist, writer, and journalist, working for several magazines and newspapers, including Woman, Australian Women's Weekly and the Melbourne Observer. A 1954 Sydney Morning Herald article briefly outlines her status at that time, recording, 'Sheila Sibley, a young Australian, formerly on [the] Woman staff and now abroad, is a favourite with European and American readers. "Lesson for Lucy", her story, points out an amusing, if critical lesson on fighting too recklessly for a fiancé' ('Feast of Fiction in Woman').
By the mid-late 1970s, Sibley had begun to turn her attention to writing for both the stage and television. Her credits include episodes for several of Australia's most successful series, notably Prisoner(1979-1980) and A Country Practice (1982-1985). She also collaborated on such shows as Holiday Island (1981), Willing and Abel (1987), All the Way (1988), Skirts (1990), Golden Fiddles (1991), E Street (1989), The New Adventures of Black Beauty (1992), and Chuck Finn (1999). Sibley's stage play Kiss of Death was produced by the Nimrod Theatre (Sydney) in 1982.
A daily television drama series set in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough, Neighbours chronicles the lives of the residents of Ramsay Street. The series initially revolved around three families: the Ramsays (at number 24 Ramsay Street), the Robinsons (at number 26), and the Clarkes (at number 28). The scope of the series has since broadened to include new Ramsay Street familes.
Set in a small, fictional, New South Wales country town called Wandin Valley, A Country Practice focused on the staffs of the town's medical practice and local hospital and on the families of the doctors, nurses, and patients. Many of the episodes also featured guest characters (frequently patients served by the practice) through whom various social and medical problems were explored. Although often considered a soap opera, the series was not built around an open-ended narrative; instead, the two one-hour episodes screened per week formed a self-contained narrative block, though many of the storylines were developed as sub-plots for several episodes before becoming the focus of a particular week's storyline. While the focus was on topical issues such as youth unemployment, suicide, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, and terminal illness, the program did sometimes explore culturally sensitive issues, including, for example, the Aboriginal community and their place in modern Australian society.
Among the show's principal characters were Dr Terence Elliott, local policeman Sergeant Frank Gilroy, Esme Watson, Shirley Dean Gilroy, Bob Hatfield, Vernon 'Cookie' Locke, and Matron Margaret 'Maggie' Sloan. In addition to its regularly rotating cast of characters, A Country Practice also had a cast of semi-regulars who would make appearances as the storylines permitted. Interestingly, while the series initially targeted the adult and older youth demographic, it became increasingly popular with children over the years.