The bequest that Tessa and her mother Chrys have left to ABF could not have come at a better time to help the actors and creatives that they both admired and supported.
TESSA MALLOS WAS A HIGHLY RESPECTED ACTOR AND A LIFE LONG ACTIVIST AND POLITICAL AGITATOR. THESE WERE THE DRIVING FORCES IN HER COLOURFUL AND VERY FULL LIFE.
Tessa was one of the first graduates of NIDA in 1963. Her successful acting career was launched by an appearance in one of the first Old Tote productions, Dark of the Moon. She played in Reedy River, a Moliere farce, Mona Brand’s Our Dear Relations and J.M.Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World at the Old Tote. Her early Television appearances included My Brother Jack with Ed Devereaux. She returned to the stage in J.C.Williamson production of the musical Funny Girl playing the dresser to Jill Perryman’s Fanny Brice.
Tessa was the only child of Chrysanthy (Chrys) Aroney and Michael Mallos. Born in 1944 in Kogarah as Anastasia, she was always know as Tessa. Her parents ran a successful milk bar in Sylvania. From an early age Tessa showed a talent for acting and love for the theatre. These were interests she shared with her mother, who encouraged her to pursue her acting dreams. Chrys was a talented dressmaker and often made costumes for Tessa.
While she was building a solid career as an actor she was also becoming increasingly interested in politics, a position cemented by her marriage to journalist and Sydney City alderman, Tony Reeves. They made a formidable and volatile couple, confronting Labor’s Right as well as conservative forces and developers.
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam appointed her to the Theatre Board of the Australian Council for the Arts. She became a part-time member of the Equal Opportunities Tribunal and member of the National Population Council. As income from acting dried up, she worked with Centrelink, gaining a frontline understanding of social issues.
Tessa was a tireless advocate for peace, campaigning against the Vietnam war and nuclear disarmament. She supported green bans and was always strongly opposed to rampant developers. She fought for Government housing, Aboriginal land rights and women’s rights as a leader of women from Labor’s Left. At a NSW party conference, Labor leader Barrie Unsworth once advised Mallos to, “go back to the fish and chip shop”. She later introduced him on stage with the said dish, wrapped in newspaper. When many years later in 1996 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Tessa became an activist for advanced cancer sufferers, helping launch the National Breast Cancer Council’s guidelines in 2001.
Though Tessa and her husband Tony separated, they remained married until his death in 2013. Both Chrys and Tessa were strongly independent but at the same time their lives were closely intertwined. After Michael Mallos died, Chrys moved into a unit in Potts Point in 1999, where eventually Tessa joined her the following year. Together they travelled and shared a wide range of interests in politics and community affairs, saw practically every film screening at the cinema and attended multitudes of theatrical performances.
When asked why Tessa was leaving a bequest to Actors Benevolent Fund she responded that "it was self evident". Tessa and Chrys' bequest to the Fund will be used to further the work of ABF in supporting the actors and creatives that were so very much a part of her life. Tessa passed away in 2017.