"You're on a charge, for insubordination."
Joan "The Freak" Ferguson (born 21st December) (Episodes 287-692) is an intelligent lesbian prison officer at Wentworth Detention Centre as a former officer of Boggo Road Gaol she is best known for her controversial "frisk" search and her black leather gloves.
Joan Ferguson was a towering, thickset, dark-haired prison officer whose contribution to the prison service could only be described as unique and inimitable
Joan's downfall in the last episodes of Prisoner end up with her arrest and transfer to Western Australia.
Life Before Wentworth[edit | edit source]
Joan had originally wanted to follow in her father's footsteps and join the army, but when this proved fruitless, she opted for the prison service.
"I was a good Officer. Straight down the line. Then I met her." Joan had fallen in love with Audrey Forbes , an inmate at Boggo Road Jail in Queensland. Audrey was murdered by her fellow prisoners when they learned of her liaison with the officer they had nicknamed 'The Bear'. It was this devastating blow that finally drove Joan to cross the line from hard-working, disciplined upholder of prison rules, to someone hell bent on making sure rules were upheld.
After the death of Audrey, Joan was transferred to the staff of Wentworth Detention Centre and without delay she set about making her mark on her new domain, entering into the procedure of cell searches and clearly aware of the many ruses run by the women.
Job At Wentworth[edit | edit source]
Joan Ferguson arrives as a new officer in (287), and immediately volunteers to take part in a cell search for grog, but discovers instead the hiding place for money in the heel of Chrissie Latham 's shoe and cottons on quickly to the fact that someone is running a book, catching Doreen Anderson with the take at the end of the same episode after pulling on black leather gloves with razor-sharp nails to give her a body search. She keeps most of it and gives the rest to Erica Davidson , then gives the rest back to Faye in return for a cut of her proceeds.
The women quickly realize that Joan is a lesbian, and indeed, she has already taken a fancy to Hannah Simpson at her induction and plants suspicion that Hannah is stealing the women's money so she may arrive as they are bashing Hannah to "save" her. Joan puts both Meg Jackson and Steve Faulkner in her debt by foiling Duncan Campbell's heavies who attempt to take Meg hostage to snatch Hannah from a court (290), and by telling the truth to discredit Chrissie Latham 's allegation of rape against Steve. The first of many attempts to discredit Joan is organised by Bea Smith , who gets the women to donate "presents" for Hannah and imply in officers' hearing that they have come from Joan, but Joan makes Chrissie inform on the plot and undermines it. Hannah complains of sexual harassment from Joan.
When Chrissie returns to Wentworth after her escape, Joan taunts her into a fight, and Chrissie is badly injured (298); and even though Chrissie clears Joan, Erica tries to find out about Joan's previous service in Queensland.
The arrival of Maxine Daniels (298) spells further trouble for Joan, as she tells Hannah about Joan's relationship with a prisoner who was killed by the other inmates (300), and Hannah lays a formal complaint against Joan. Erica is unable to get the details from the Governor in Queensland and is unable to prevent Joan's promotion to senior officer rank (301)
During the Wentworth/Woodridge concert, Joan was made the Deputy 2IC as Colleen was busy helping with the concert. Bea organises protests against Joan, but Joan out-manoeuvres them all during episode 302 sprays everyone with a fire hose to get them inside, then they barricade themselves in the dining room, when Lizzie becomes severely ill Ferguson refuses to budge and Steve runs off to get a doctor, while Joan calls them all pathetic and tells the women she'll be back at 7am. Joan walked away and Bea shouts that Ferguson had won..
Meg's brief stretch in Wentworth as a prisoner convinces her that Joan is dealing with the women, and Erica reluctantly agrees to go along with an attempt to entrap Joan into providing them with evidence (312). Joan takes Barbara Fields ' papers to force her to inform on Meg and Steve's activities (314) so she can turn the tables by reporting them to Erica (316). Joan starts taunting Bea about her daughter and Donna Mason. Joan gets Paddy Lawson to aggravate Bea so Bea won't get parole. Joan gets Margo Gaffney to cause trouble over the joint concert with Woodridge and discredit Colleen Powell (319), but when she hurtsLizzie Birdsworth attempting to prevent Margo's escape, Joan puts a note in the Isolation Block saying that Lizzie is dead from Paddy. Joan does a body search on Paddy to find a note that Andy Hudson's sister gave her, Bea tells her where the note is but Joan still does the body search, Bea gets the note and shows Joan then she stops. Chrissie, Margo, Paddy, Lil and Jacko decide to attack Joan on the stairs but wasn't that successful.
Bea decides more drastic action is needed. Barbara Fields has gained possession of Joan's diary, and Bea uses this to trick Joan into looking for it as Margo and Chrissie start fires. Bea strangles Joan until she is unconscious. Joan wakes up and attacks Bea with a piece of wood and bangs her head on the floor. Joan is eventually forced by Paddy Lawson to help Bea to safety (327).
Shortly after Joan returns to work (334), Nola McKenzie arrives, and Joan involves herself in Nola's rackets to try to install Nola in Bea's place. Their cosy set-up is exposed by Jill Clark , who arrives in (349) to carry out a Departmental investigation undercover as a prisoner, but Joan forces the Department to remove her by revealing her identity. Nola's drug dealing closely following on Bea's escape (353), forces Erica to resign and Ted Douglas urges Joan to apply for the Governorship (362).
Bea deposes Nola as top dog (364), so Joan decides that Bea must go, and tells Nola to use Zara Moonbeam, a fraudulent medium, to convince Bea that her daughter Debbie is trying to contact her. Joan butters up the new Governor, Ann Reynolds , and feeds her details about other staff members (367). Joan's plan to provide Bea with a zip gun to commit suicide only gives Bea the means to dispose of Nola (369).
No sooner has Joan been cleared of any involvement when a new prisoner, Tracey Belman, accuses Joan of sexual harassment (370) of which she is also soon cleared. Joan is soon able to gain back some credibility by her handling of a siege, by talking her neighbour Carol Coulson into giving herself up after she has stabbed her husband (375).
Joan's visits to Carol's daughter Jilly are the first hint of her maternal side. She is compromised again by the appearance of her niece Lucy (385) who is later brought to Wentworth on drugs charges (387) and blackmails Joan into arranging her escape (389).
Joan meets her next major antagonist/victim when she returns to work after the Lassa fever outbreak and inducts Sonia Stevens (394), tricking her into paying for an escape then preventing it (396). Sonia suggests that Joan has Bea transferred to allow her to take over as top dog, and to this end they team up in the production of illicit booze (399). Joan sets Bea up for fighting to get her to solitary, then taunts her into attacking her, resulting in Bea's transfer to Barnhurst (400). However, two new prisoners arrive to cause Joan and Sonia problems: Cass Parker is transferred from Barnhurst after killing an officer (401), and Minnie Donovan is convicted for running a shoplifting gang (405). Minnie and Cass team up and oust Sonia as top dog, who tries to recover her position by making a tape of her conversation with Joan and using it to force Joan to bring alcohol into the prison (407). The tape is smuggled out of the prison through Brenda Hewitt , and Joan finds herself blackmailed by an associate of Lionel Fellowes (411).
An attempt by Minnie to fix Joan turns into a full-scale lynching (411), but when Joan discharges herself from hospital to pay the blackmailer, he has already been killed on Fellowes' instructions. Joan is given LSD by Fellowes' henchmen to warn her off (413), which leads to her brutally killing her own puppy Major. However, she eventually manages to do a deal with Fellowes to leave both her and Wentworth alone (416).
While Ann is in the hospital for a mastectomy and Colleen is Acting Governor, Joan turns her attention to Minnie and Cass again, framing them for tying her up in the shower block (417) and then framing Cass for poisoning Minnie (418). A rooftop protest results in Meg's demotion and Joan becoming Acting Deputy to Colleen (419). Joan witnesses Colleen running a man over (420) and uses it to strengthen her position, becoming Acting Governor in Colleen's place in (422).
Her triumph is short-lived when the Department send Erica Davidson into Wentworth to investigate Meg's complaints, and at the same time, the women use a visit by Joan's father to humiliate her (424). Meg is reinstated as Acting Deputy (425).
Joan finds that she has other worries when Reb Kean 's friends kidnap her father in an attempt to get Reb out of prison. The women prevent Joan taking Reb to the hospital as arranged until she has cleared Colleen and offered her resignation. Joan is taken with Reb by the kidnappers, and she eventually kills one of them with his gun (426).
Joan persuades Ann to allow her to take back her resignation (427) and seems to have turned over a new leaf, and tells Sonia she won't be involved in her rackets anymore, but when she returns after visiting her father (435), she is determined to make Reb pay for the harm she has done. She is diverted by Myra Desmond 's entry into Wentworth, especially after she is made the top dog, and tries to set her up for attacks on her rival Gloria . When Joan visits her father again (445), we find out more about her relationship with Audrey Forbes, though the visit to Sydney allows her to find Bobbie Mitchell (446) and through her to trace Sonia after their abduction from Wentworth.
After Colleen leaves, Joan's bid for Deputy is blocked by a newspaper article by Camilla Wells, but Meg's appointment is reviewable, giving Joan the opportunity to attempt to discredit her and by (462) she is aiming for Ann's job as well, using Marie Winter to start a riot (466), but the plan backfires: Ann is reinstated (469) for her heroism during the riot, Heather Rogers becomes suspicious of Joan's part in it, and Marie Winter demands Joan's help with her escape and to get revenge on Reb before she goes. Joan sets Reb up to be bashed by Marie, but Reb accuses Joan of the bashing (471).
To add to her troubles, Joan is arrested for abducting Shane Munroe, whom she befriends after finding him when he breaks into her flat (462). Even after charges are dropped, Joan is again asked to resign (474), but this time, the officers are reluctantly forced to strike to support her and she returns to work in (477).
Heather asks the women's support in framing Joan for the sexual harassment of Pixie Mason (484), but the plot fails, and Heather is dismissed. Joan tries to take revenge against Reb by pushing her over a railing (486) but has to be rescued by Reb when she slips and nearly falls over herself. Her second attempt involves manipulating the cook Ray Procter into arranging an accident for Reb in the kitchen. He fails (495), and Reb makes him sign a statement about Joan's plot. Joan eventually engineers Reb's transfer to Blackmoor (503) but not before working with her to oppose the ambitious new male officer Len Murphy.
When Ann collapses and has to take leave, Joan expects to make Governor again, but Len takes up the post with Joyce as Deputy (508). Joan gets her revenge when Pixie is raped by Frank Burke, and Joan gets Myra to help her frame Len for the attack (512). She is called to her father's bedside, and he dies in (523) and phones a friend at Blackmoor to get her to get back at Reb (526).
She starts to pick on a new arrival, Lexie Patterson, but Lexie gets Frank Burke to fix her, which he does by pushing a bookcase on top of her (531). Joan starts to suffer blackouts and memory loss, which is exploited by the women, and Joan is framed for bashing Lou Kelly and suspended (536). A blood clot in the brain is discovered, and Joan has immediate emergency surgery while the Department try to contact her to tell her she has been reinstated after Anita Selby breaks the no lagging rule and informs on the plot.
When Joan returns to work (540), there have been new transfers from Barnhurst after a fire there and Ruth Ballinger has been brought to Wentworth to get her to inform on her husband's criminal activities. Of more immediate importance for Joan is the transfer of Terri Malone (541), who first conspires with her to frame Lou and Myra, and later becomes her lover. Ruth Ballinger also offers to get rid of Lou and Myra if Joan will bring drugs in for her, and Joan is then blackmailed by Ruth with incriminating photographs (545), but this does not stop Joan bashing Ruth when she finds out about her involvement with child prostitution and pornography. Joan spoils the escape arranged for Ruth after Ruth's attempt to kill Myra goes wrong (550), and is taken hostage during the attempt by armed gunmen to storm the prison and free Ruth, but she and the driver shoot the gunmen at the airport to which Ruth is taken to Blackmoor (553).
During episode 541 Malone is transferred into the main prison from the maternity wing, with Joan taking an interest in the new guard and the two find common ground regarding the running of the prison. Terri and Joan start their relationship with Joan and Terri getting to know each other before they get more comfortable with their relationship.
After a fire at Joan's house arranged by Lionel Fellowes, Terri insists that Joan moves in with her (555) and Joan is eventually forced to do a deal with Fellowes to get him to cancel the contract on her (557). Her relationship with Terri is put under strain by the attitude of Terri's parents (565) and Terri's resignation after the prison newspaper prints details of their affair (568). The final straw is when Joan discovers that Terri is sleeping with her boss and Terri has to leave (576). Joan goes to work after her and Terri have a talk. Terri tells Joan that is over because she thought Joan was different but goes off on Joan and says she was everything to her but physically there. Joan gets highly upset when the Prisoners goad her about Terri leaving, and when in the staffroom talking with Meg, Joan doesn't say anything and tries not to cry in front of Meg, but rushes out of the staffroom in a hurry. Joan cries until Kelly goads Joan and Joan slaps Kelly as a result and in front of Meg who witnesses it, but Meg tells Kelly to get back to the laundry and that Joan and Meg need to talk. Meg asks Joan what happened and Joan admits that Terri had broken off their relationship and Meg says that people fight, Joan admits that its over and says Terri despised her, claiming that she has never felt so hurt and that Joan had felt content being with Terri and that she loved her. Joan also admits doesn't like her own company much. Meg then tells Joan she is going back on rounds, and Joan asks Meg that she saw what happened and that she needs the job now more than ever. Meg replies to Joan that she didn't see enough to make a report and that prisoners are always goading officers. (Possibly because Meg knew how hurt Joan was and decided not to report her.)
Terri is mentioned by Joan when talking to Andrew Hinton, with Andrew assuming that Terri was a man and Joan going along with it saying that Terri hurt her a lot and that she found it hard to be in another relationship after that. Terri is mentioned again after Joan's house burns down completely in episode 623, when Joan receives a phone call from the insurance company saying that her fire insurance payment lapsed and she wasn't covered. Joan was in the staffroom with Joyce Pringle at the time and Joyce asks what has happened, Joan says to Joyce almost in tears, that she wasn't covered and that she thought Terri had done 'all the damage she could.' Cynthia calls in her favour: Reb is to be transferred back to Wentworth, and Cynthia to make sure she does not reveal her mistreatment at Blackmoor (577). Reb turns out to be frightened and confused, and Joan finds herself accused of the attack she made on Reb in (486) when Reb remembers it (579). Joan tries to push Reb into suicide by informing her of all the things she has done, including attacking Joan's father and leaving Phyllis a 'vegetable' (581) but Reb is eventually released. Meanwhile, Joan's last main antagonist, Rita Connors, has arrived (586): Joan suspects her of knocking her out and putting her in the drier (592) and the war heats up when Rita contacts her bikie friends and gets them to wreck Joan's house (596). As revenge, Joan sets fire to the Conquerors' bikes (597), which provokes a gang fight in which Rita's boyfriend is killed. Eve Wilder lags to Joan about who put her in the dryer, and Joan is taken hostage during the subsequent disturbances and set against Rita for a fight to the death (602) but is saved by Bob Moran.
After several scenes establishing her loneliness (612), we are prepared for Joan meeting a new friend, Andrew Hinton in (614), and their platonic friendship develops to the stage where she moves in with him after the Conquerors take their revenge and burn down her house (625). When she discovers that Terri had allowed her insurance to lapse, she is tempted to take up Amy Ryan's offer of payment if she will increase Julie Egbert's sentence to prevent her marrying her son Steve (624) and gets Kath Maxwell to drug her, but her involvement in running drugs into Wentworth brings her to the attention of crime boss Harry Parker (628), and she unwisely asks his assistance in getting the Conquerors off her back (631) When Sandra Williams is caught bringing drugs into Wentworth by Rodney, Harry Parker retaliates by having Andrew killed in a hit and run accident (635) and threatening his daughter Jenny (636). Joan is forced to go to the police with the whole story, and Inspector Grace sets Joan up to visit Harry Parker wearing a bugged cameo brooch to get him to confess, and Joan believes she will lose her job over this, but Grace tells Parker that Joan was working undercover with them all along. (636).
After Parker is murdered in police custody, Rita declares she will settle accounts with Joan and attacks her with a knife (637) and has another go during the work experience on the boat, but when Rita is hanging precariously from a cliff, Joan pulls her to safety (644).
Joan cultivates Kath and uses her friendship with Rodney, suggesting a shop (661), ostensibly to help overcome the contraband problem, but really to provide an outlet for booze and drugs collected by Kath on her shopping trips outside.
While Ann is away at a conference, Joan takes the opportunity to get rid of Rita by framing her for destroying the shop, and transfers her to Blackmoor (665). Unfortunately, Rita burns the place down and is transferred back with other prisoners and the Governor of Blackmoor, Ernest Craven (669). Joan plots with him to depose Ann, but is appalled when he sets up Lorelei to be raped by two male prisoners (670) and outraged when Craven is appointed Governor in Ann's place (671) and has to blackmail him to step down in her favour. Joan consolidates her position as Governor by transferring Meg, Joyce and Marty to other prisons (675), but her fondness for Lorelei makes her deliver a tape made by the women to Ingleside, which promotes Lorelei's recovery and Lorelei agrees to do the interview but only under the reasons that Joan does not lose her job. Lorelei appears on a TV documentary exposing Craven's cruel regime (679) after which the Minister is forced to reinstate Ann, and Joan is demoted back to officer rank as Ann states to the minister that she does not want Joan in consideration for any other promotion at Wentworth. Joan makes one last visit to see Lorelei and she says that Joan still has some good in her but her bad side has more than taken over the person she used to know, she asks Joan to leave, and when Joan does she asks the doctor if she can make a phone call, and its for Lorelei's daughter to visit. Joan is disgusted at the Minister's betrayal and takes leave of absence to look for other jobs (679). She first gets a job as functions manager in a restaurant, but leaves after losing her temper with a stroppy customer (682), then gets a job with a security firm where she is given a series of demeaning tasks. When she confronts her boss, she is amazed to recognise Willie Beecham, who threatens her to prevent her getting any other job (683): a threat that turns out to be well founded as she tries to find work but Beecham has beaten Joan to the punch and Joan cannot find work in the state. Joan goes to the minister again and this time, the Minister refuses to help her and tells Joan she will have to return to Wentworth after Joan struggles to find new work, after Beecham's threats are put into fruition. Joan says that if she returns to Wentworth she will be a laughing stock, the Minister tells Joan to swallow her pride and return to Wentworth because he can't help her anymore.
The women find they can insult Joan freely (689) and their pressure makes her take up Rita's offer, made while Joan is accompanying her to the hospital for chemotherapy treatment, to join with her in a robbery on a finance company (690). Rita is to rob the company, then hide the money and allow herself to be recaptured, and Joan is to collect it later. Joan helps Rita to escape (691) but hesitates to collect the money until the police tell her that Rita has died.
Joan is arrested outside the finance company (692) and is appalled to realise that she is to be taken to Wentworth as a prisoner. When Ferguson is brought into reception she gloats to Meg Morris claiming that Morris is enjoying the situation and when Ferguson calms down she calmly says that she had all that money and she would've never looked at another prison again and goes off when she is taken to solitary, and Joan asks both Reynolds and Morris how they knew she would be arrested and that the police were waiting for her. She also gloats when she hears the women chanting her name. "I ran this place. Me! It's me they hate! Ferguson! Ferguson stuck to the rules. Ferguson kept them in line, Ferguson was always one step ahead of them!" However, Joan is stopped in her tracks and unprepared for her last surprise, when her meal is brought in by Rita, seemingly back from the dead. She realises that she has finally been outsmarted and says her last lines of the series: "I trusted you..." - a dumbfounded Joan could barely speak. Undone, she spends a single night as an internee of Wentworth before the police transferred her to a prison in Western Australia (where she is less known) for her own safety. The final scenes of the program show the inmates celebrate outside in the prison grounds as Joan leaves.
Joan's Injury List[edit | edit source]
Joan had her fair share of injuries during the series run and some of them would be life threatening, but as Joan would say, she was a survivor.
Surviving the outbreak of Lassa Fever that killed many prisoners including a Wentworth guard, also including surviving an attack in which she was hung (surviving that because of her neck muscles and even signed out of the hospital against medical advice). Joan also gets stabbed with scissors by deranged prisoner Angel Adams, surviving the stabbing with no lasting damage. Joan also survived blackouts which lead to a diagnosis of a brain bleed after being struck in the head and a bookcase dropped on her (again signing out of hospital against medical advice, this was due to a little girl going in for the same procedure and it being too much for her. Joan signs out and recovers enough to return to work, in a Joan way just days after having lifesaving brain surgery), being slapped and punched on multiple occasions including a forced fight with Rita Connors (during the Lou Kelly Riot), and surviving falling from a ladder and being transported out of Wentworth on a spinal board, sedated and in a bad way. Joan returns to work in episode 334 wearing a neck brace to prevent strain after being in hospital (during the Wentworth fire), and was struck in the face by a rifle stock which lead to a giant facial bruise (may have been a fractured cheekbone, but didn't look like it during the terrorist siege). Joan also survived being placed into a drier and the burning down of her house during her run in with Lionel Fellowes, suffering only smoke inhalation. Surviving being left for dead in the bush, but in a Joan way finds a way out. Joan was also attacked by Bea Smith being choked by Smith with a bar, and attacking Joan again when Joan goads Bea about drugs in episode 400, Joan inflicts scratches on her own face to get rid of Smith once and for all. Joan also survived multiple hostage situations, including being held at gun point, being knocked out many times.
Often the other guards would have no sympathy for Joan as sometimes she brought it on herself, but Joan just continued on with her work. But during episode 536 staff are worried when she doesn't turn up to work, and later find out Joan underwent brain surgery without telling anyone, and then refuses to see anyone afterward. Ann Reynolds in episode 412 is surprised when Scott Collins tells the governor that Joan signed out of hospital calling it dangerous, with Scott saying the doctor couldn't stop her, as he told her she would need 'at least 3 days in traction'.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Joan Ferguson lives at 27 Station St, Auburn (320)
- Joan claims in episode 400 to have been in the service for 10 years, in other episodes she claims 20 and 25 years in the service.
- Many fans claim that if Joan had decided to look after Shane, that her character wouldn't have become as erratic in further episodes.
- Joan in a Joan way always returning to work after horrific injuries. Including being stabbed with scissors, hung, stuffed in a drier, brain surgery and being pulled out of Wentworth unconscious. Maybe her mind was telling her that Wentworth made her a survivor and even says this to Reynolds 'Joan Ferguson will be around for a long time yet' and slams the door.
- Maggie Kirkpatrick had originally auditioned for the role of Vera Bennett but didn't get the role of Vera and returned to theatre and in 1982 was asked to come onto the series, as the series most famous villain, Joan Ferguson