Daphne turned her back on stardom

Former Orange resident Daphne Calder (nee Campbell) passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family on October 15, 2013.  She was the eldest daughter of Vic and Ivy Campbell, formerly of Campbell’s Corner, Pinnacle Road, Orange.

Daphne was a lance corporal in the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service when plucked from obscurity to play the leading lady, alongside Chips Rafferty, in the Australian classic The Overlanders.  She reluctantly accepted the role.

The film was shot in the Northern Territory by Britain’s Ealing Studios after the federal government complained Australia’s contribution to the war effort was not being sufficiently recognised.

Blessed with natural beauty and country ways, Daphne was a perfect fit for the role of the whip-cracking, horse-riding daughter of a cattleman, droving a herd across the northwest during wartime. 

Whilst filming near Alice Springs in 1945 she fell in love with the town and surrounding country - and Stephen “Sam” Calder who she met during her work on the film. Mr Calder had recently returned from a long and esteemed service in the airforce during World War II and had been decorated.  They soon married and after filming had finished Daphne and Sam visited her parents at Orange and Daphne said casually: “Mum and dad - I want you to meet Stephen, he’s my husband.”

Despite the success of The Overlanders and receiving offers from London and Hollywood to appear in their films, Daphne did not wish to pursue acting.  Instead, she chose to live at Alice Springs to help her husband run an air-mail service and start a family. Mr Calder established the successful Connellan Airways which flew throughout the Territory. Chips Rafferty thought Daphne should continue making films, however she never regretted her decision and was happy and grateful to go on and live a full life. 

In 1947 Daphne  entered the Miss SA section of the Miss Australia Quest, as Miss NT, even though married and having given birth to her first child, Erika.  She agreed to enter to raise money for the Alice Springs kindergarten and war memorial.

Daphne went on to become Miss SA and although she did not place in the national title, she was thrilled at winning the South Australian quest. Daphne and Sam went on to have another three daughters, Eve, Diana and Fiona. They raised their daughters on a cattle station in the Northern Territory. Sadly, Fiona died at 26.

In 1966 Mr Calder entered politics and became the first Liberal House of Representatives member for the Northern Territory in Canberra.  During his 14 year career, Sam and Daphne featured prominently in the social and political life of Central Australia and Canberra.  Sam passed away at Darwin in 2008, aged 92.

Just like her parents, Daphne had a love of gardening and started a plant nursery in Alice Springs which she owned and operated for 15 years.  She adored the MacDonnell Ranges, was besotted with rocks of all kinds and knew the botanical names of most plants. Many letters received from her contained dried leaves or flowers from some of her favourite fauna.

Her home always resembled that of a geologist/naturalist - her weighty collections of rocks are still spread among her friends who treasure them.

In 1988 she stood for, and won, a seat on the Alice Springs Town Council. Unfortunately, ill health forced her to resign a year later.

She loved visiting Orange, particularly in autumn to see all the beautiful autumn colours on display.  Her father, Vic Campbell planted over 200 varieties of European cold climate trees at Campbells Corner. She had very happy memories of growing up in Orange. She rode horses from a very early age and rode either her horse or bike to school which was five miles away. 

Daphne’s declining health eventually forced her to leave Alice Springs and live near family in Noosa.

She is survived by her three daughters, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Daphne’s brother Bruce Campbell also passed away in early 2013.  Her sister Enid Campbell died at 21 and her youngest sister Ruth McGree lives in Toukley. Her niece Julie McDonald lives in Orange. Daphne is resting near her daughter Fiona, amongst the ghost gums which she so adored at her beloved red centre. 

A WONDERFUL LIFE: Daphne Calder.

A WONDERFUL LIFE: Daphne Calder.


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