15 renowned people you never knew were from Warrnambool, or maybe you did?

15 renowned people you never knew were from Warrnambool, or maybe you did?

We’ve got way too much free time now.

Earlier this year, back in the first lockdown, we had a look at a few of celebrities born or raised in Geelong. A result of a lot of Googling and a couple of wines, we came to the conclusion that Geelong really is a breeding ground for exceptional talent, spawning the likes of Chrissy Amphlett, Portia De Rossi, Daryl Somers and Guy Pearce, among others.

Now we’re expanding our research, and looking to the wider region, Warrnambool specifically.

Tom Ballard
Lauded as one of the country’s most exciting and insightful voices, award-winning stand-up comedian/actor/writer/broadcaster/person who always tries his best Tom Ballard is Warrnambool born and bred. One of Australia’s hottest comic talents, he’s performed and won acclaim all around the world, last year selling out shows all over the world to critical acclaim and annoyed a hell of a lot of Baby Boomers on Facebook, but it all started in the ‘bool where the ‘Warrnamboolian’ (his words) was a presenter for Warrnambool’s 3WAY FM community radio station with Alex Dyson.

“I loved growing up in Warrnambool,” he told his local paper, The Standard. “Sure, I’ve made my fair share of jokes about the occasionally-less-than-exhilarating experience of being a 16-year-old with delusions of grandeur living three-and-a-half hours away from the Big City, but ultimately, I know how lucky I am to call this place home.”

Lisa Gorman
Known for its colourful, whimsical prints and quirky collaborations, Gorman offers a truly unique fashion experience for the boldest of fashion gurus. As one of the most recognisable brands in the Australian fashion world, it all started with Warrnambool born and bred fashion designer Lisa Gorman.

Growing up in the coastal town in the 1970s, Lisa started her fashion empire young by creating clothing for the Gorman sisters’ Barbie collection and at just 13, Lisa started her first business selling custom made applique sweaters to Warrnambool’s craft store and it was only up from there.

Dave Hughes
Love him or hate him, Hughesy is the busiest man in show business, regularly hosting his own TV and radio programs, as well as travelling around the world performing standup.

Famed for his larrikin personality, drawling Australian accent, and deadpan comedic delivery, the comic also grew up in Warrnambool, graduating from the all-boys Christian Brothers’ College in 1988 where he was dux of the school. He even went on to study accounting in the ‘Bool before dropping out to eventually pursue a career in comedy.

Didirri Peters
Born and bred in Warrnambool, right by the coast in a little house near Thunder Point, Didirri is renowned in the music scene for his striking ability to captivate punters with his voice, musicianship, and storytelling, making you feel like he was a seasoned performer with decades of knowledge and experience.

With a known love for that Southwest coastal chill, Didirri told Forte that his favourite things to do growing up were exploring the bushland around Warrnambool, listening to music up around the cliffs and switching off at Merrivale beach, all before moving to Melbourne to pursue his career in music.

Alex Dyson
Triple j broadcaster, self-proclaimed ‘Ratdog’, DJ and social media infuencer Alex Dyson was another comic born and bred in Warrnambool.

Dyso — now based in Melbourne after some travelling — made an early foray into radio in his hometown, hosting with mate Tom Ballard on a community station. Their break came when in 2007 when they were offered a slot on triple j, eventually hosting the Breakfast show. When Ballard left, Dyson was joined by Matt Okine. Dyson finished at the end of 2016, only to return as Lunch host in December for six months.

Now the interpretive dance master, former Wannon candidate (yep, that happened) and even author, is keeping himself busy with an All Day Breakfast podcast with Okine, delighting many long-time triple j listeners.

A hugely successful group at home and abroad, Airbourne are known as one of the hardest rocking Aussie groups to have emerged in recent memory, with their heavy rhythms and ridiculous onstage antics making them a mainstay on the international festival circuit. While they might be best known for playing at festivals alongside the likes of Metallica, Slayer and Iron Maiden, Airbourne’s origins can be traced back to the South Western coastal city of Warnambool, where they cut their teeth as teenagers on the city’s underage gig circuit before becoming the trailblazers of hard rock we know today.

Jonathan Brown
Born and bred in Warrnambool, Emmanuel College Warrnambool graduate Jonathan Brown is well known amongst AFL crowds, being the former captain of the Brisbane Lions and whom at one point was widely regarded as one of the premier players in the competition. He’s a three-time club best and fairest winner, two-time All Australian (2007 and 2009), one-time Coleman Medallist and three-time AFL premiership player. Talk about talent!

A regular guest panellist on The AFL Footy Show throughout his playing career and the Fox Footy’s commentary team, some might even recongise the voice from Nova 100’s breakfast show Chrissie, Sam & Browny, alongside Chrissie Swan and Sam Pang.

Josh Beames
You might not know the face but those with a love of photography will recognise the name Josh Beames. Based in Warrnambool, the photographer’s works using long exposures have received media coverage for capturing natural phenomena as well as unique moments in astronomy and meteorology, both in Australia and internationally.

Growing up with the Great Ocean Road on his doorstep, Josh was passionate about capturing nature’s unbelievable ways right from the get-go and has since had work shared and published by notable outlets, including Nikon Australia, Victorian Government, Herald Sun, Fairfax Media, Qantas, Jetstar, Tourism Australia and Tourism Tasmania. Also dabbling in real estate and weddings, Josh is currently an official Nikon School Lecturer and Professional Photographer.

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That Wanaka Tree . I almost didn’t even put the name of this tree in the caption as everyone surly knows it by now! Lol. This place was insanely busy with photographers so it wasn’t easy getting a shot or a unique one at that! I hung around until after sunset and waited for the crowd to get bored and bail. . Golden autumn leaves lined Lake Wanaka and I felt this created a beautiful contrast to the sky so I just had to incorporate them into the frame. . I hope you have been enjoying my shots from New Zealand’s South Island and as always thanks for the support on IG! . @iso100_photography Autumn Workshop. @discover_newzealand @nikonaustralia #mynikonlife . Nikon D810 Nikkor AF-S 14-24 f2.8 . . . . #earth #globalcapture#incredible_shot #watchthisinstagood #fatalframes #ig_mood #stayandwander #moodygramd #purenewzealand #earth_shotz #nz #destinationearth #artofvisuals #aov #newzealand #visualsoflife #visualsofearth #earthpix #earthfocus #bevisuallyinspired #igphotoworld #roamtheplanet #thegreatoutdoors #discover_newzealand

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Ben Barber
It wouldn’t be a true Australian list without one Neighbours actor now would it?

Actor Ben Barber grew up in Warrnambool, studying amateur dramatics while he attended Brauer College, and after a detour to the army reserve and time at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, the Southwest local got his first major television appearance in Australian soap opera Home and Away, before being cast as regular character Rhys Lawson on Neighbours.

Paul Jennings
While not born and bred but Paul Jennings AM – an English-Australian children’s book writer – resides in Warrnambool and that’s good enough for us! His books mainly feature short stories that lead the reader through an unusual series of events that end with a twist. His stories were actually adapted for the first two seasons of children’s television series Round the Twist in 1989 and 1992, and then later in 1998 for the only season of series Driven Crazy.

Yes, this is the man we have to thank for our childhood memories of Round the Twist.

Wayne Schwass
Born and bred in New Zealand, Wayne Schwass moved to Warrambool when he was just 10 years old, signalling the beginning of his very illustrious AFL career.

Known as “Swatta”, he earned himself a solid reputation as a champion wingman, known for his blistering pace and courage who played in the Kangaroos’ 1996 premiership side before becoming a leader in the Sydney Swans side.

While his football career is brilliant, it’s his work with mental health that we truly admire. Revealing he had suffered from depression during his time playing, Schwass set up ‘The Sunrise Foundation’ to help other athletes who suffer from depression, and is now founder and CEO of PukaUp, a social enterprise who state their vision is “to create the environments for every person to have authentic and genuine conversations about mental health and emotional wellbeing.”


Warrnambool born Christian Ryan is an Australian rower who won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Sally Ann Walker AM is an Australian university administrator and lawyer. She served as the fifth Vice-Chancellor and President of Deakin University and was the first woman to be appointed to the position. Girl power!

After playing high school basketball at Emmanuel College in Warrnambool, Nathan Adam Sobey went on to become an Australian professional basketball player for the Brisbane Bullets of the National Basketball League (NBL).

Warrnambool-born Marc Leishman is an Australian professional golfer who currently plays on the PGA Tour. In 2009 he won the Rookie of the Year award on the PGA Tour. He was actually the first Australian to win the award.