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Vale friends

Judith Burgess

22/8/1940 – 27/4/2023

We thank AMEB Speech and Drama examiner, Elaine Hodda, for sharing her recollections of her dear friend and colleague, Judi Burgess.

Judith Burgess was an exceptional teacher, examiner, adjudicator and actress. She had a generosity of spirit that was extended to her friends, colleagues and students, and she was only too willing to share her resources and time.   

Judith commenced her Speech and Drama studies at Tara Anglican School at Parramatta with Hazel Robertson, a speech teacher whose passion and love of literature inspired her immediately. Her father gave her a reel-to-reel tape recorder and she spent many hours each week in her bedroom preparing for lessons and developing her love of literature.

Judith completed her Associate in Performance (ACTL) at the age of 18, going on to perform in musicals such as South Pacific and plays such as Red Peppers.

Elaine reminisced:
"In our early days of teaching we needed to build up our library and teaching resources, so we would search out second-hand bookshops and op shops.  We would sometimes spend hours in our pursuit of finding ‘treasures’".  

As a Speech and Drama teacher, one of her first students was a young teenage boy who had been involved in a horse-riding accident and had lost his ability to speak. Judith’s dedicated work over a period of eighteen months had a tremendous impact on his ability to effectively communicate once again.

Judi completed her AMEB Licentiate in Speech and Drama in 1984, whilst teaching students privately in Castle Hill. She then commenced teaching at Pymble Ladies’ College in the mid-1980s. She was appointed as an AMEB (NSW) Speech and Drama examiner in 1991 and examined for 28 years in regional and metropolitan centres across NSW and the ACT.

Judi’s professional life was inspirational. Her knowledge of theatre and theatre craft has enriched the lives of students, teachers and many members of the theatre community. Her presence will be sorely missed but the legacy of Judi’s experience, expertise and enthusiasm will continue.


Brennan Keats OAM

1/2/1939 – 1/2/2023

We thank Emeritus Professor Dr Michael Atherton AM, a composer, performer, researcher and dear friend of Brennan Keats OAM for his contributions to this article.

Brennan Keats spent his youth spearfishing around Georges Head in Mosman. As he matured, this hunter of fish gave up spearfishing to become a hunter of composers. He studied organ with Faunce Allman at St James Church, Sydney and studied piano with Gordon Watson at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

His father, Horace Keats, was a prolific composer, pianist and conductor, and his mother, Barbara Russell, was a recitalist and ABC broadcaster. A talented author, Brennan wrote A Poet’s Composer, a biography of his father and his association with contemporary artists in the literary and music worlds, and later A Woman Who Stands Alone, a tribute to his talented mother. Both books were valuable contributions to Australian history.

In 1987, with his wife Anne Keats, Brennan took on the risky business of publishing, launching Wirripang Pty Ltd, which is now the leading independent print music publisher of Australian classical and jazz music. Wirripang continues to provide an important platform to preserve the music of a galaxy of Australian heritage and contemporary composers for future generations. Many of these compositions can be found throughout the AMEB Manual, in a broad range of instrumental syllabuses.

Along with his many other gifts, Brennan was a talented composer and arranger, with a particular interest in instrumental and choral writing. One of his compositions was a work for flute quartet, The Bloodying of Innocence. This was intended to be performed during commemoration ceremonies pertaining to war and was premiered at a concert at The Sydney Conservatorium of Music during Remembrance Day 2015.

In 2014, both Brennan and Anne Keats were deservedly presented with the Medal of the Order of Australia for their important service to music. Anne continues this important work at the helm of Wirripang.

In 2018, Brennan wrote the story, Wirripang from the beginning, to celebrate its first thirty years. He enriched the lives of many with his publishing creativity, humanity and passion for social justice for Australian musicians.

We conclude with a lovely excerpt from Michael’s address at Brennan’s memorial service in April:
“Throughout his life, Brennan served his muses Euterpe, Erato and Clio – the muses of music, lyric poetry and history respectively.  We now bid him farewell, be with your muses.”


Robyn Fraser

29/1/1945 – 28/4/2023

We thank AMEB Speech and Drama examiner, Moira Hawker, for her help with this tribute to her friend and colleague, Robyn.

Robyn Fraser was appointed as an AMEB Speech and Drama examiner in 2006 and continued in that role for 11 years. Sadly, she passed away in April after a long illness, leaving a remarkable legacy in her personal and professional life.

Through her teaching, examining and adjudicating, Robyn touched the lives of countless students and candidates with her passion for the human voice, the written word and theatre in all its forms. Maya Angelou once wrote:  Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. Robyn brought this sentiment to life.  She was gifted with a beautiful resonant vocal quality, which she used to great effect in all her spoken communication. And this was a hallmark of her teaching – the power and effectiveness of the human voice.  

Robyn also loved the written word and searched high and low for new writers and works to bring to her students. As an examiner, she often praised the selections that were presented, and enthusiastically engaged candidates in discussion regarding their choices.  Robyn was entranced by the theatre and, with her husband Michael, attended plays and events in many countries - from street theatre to the grandest operas.

Born in Dungog and raised in Kogarah, Robyn started her professional life with the ABC. She worked in Papua New Guinea and continued to travel extensively throughout her career. Robyn was a well-known member of the Rozelle community in Sydney. During thirty years as a Speech and Drama teacher at the Lilyfield Community Centre and then her studio in Rozelle, she taught pupils ranging from youngsters in primary school to HSC drama students to professional adults from the media, legal and psychiatry fraternities.

Robyn also tutored many current Speech and Drama teachers, providing a strong foundation and constant support in their careers. She was a valued presenter at seminars and workshops, generously passing on her knowledge and experience to others. One of Robyn’s long-time students, successful international actor, Yael Stone, recently recalled the magic of her weekly Speech and Drama lessons. She remembered the fun, creativity and safety that Robyn provided as they explored all genres of literature together.  

She was a warm and encouraging examiner who appreciated each student and wrote positive and constructive reports to enrich their examination experience. She was also generous with her time and expertise supporting her AMEB colleagues.

Robyn will be deeply missed by all who knew her. Yet, her passion for effective communication and her love of theatre will live on through the Speech community that she mentored, befriended and inspired.