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HomeHome And AwayEXCLUSIVE: Belinda Emmett's brother Shane remembers his "effervescent" sister

EXCLUSIVE: Belinda Emmett’s brother Shane remembers his “effervescent” sister

Shane Emmett, Belinda Emmett’s brother, was given a gorgeous photograph of his sister on the same scene when he returned to Summer Bay.

Belinda was heartbroken but radiant in the makeup chair on her final day on Home and Away, looking forward to a bright future. The young actress was already battling cancer, which took her life seven years later at the tragically young age of 32. This lovely image, however, bears no traces of disease.

The happy snapshot, taken by a crew member, was eventually given to Shane as an emotional yet private memory for him and his family.

“It’s become a great family treasure,” the actor and screenwriter recalls, recalling his cherished big sister, who was always on his side. “It’s a nice reminder of how important she was to so many people.”

Belinda is still remembered fondly by family, friends, and admirers 15 years after her tragic, early death on November 11, 2006 – not least by her heartbroken husband, Rove McManus.

“It’s always tough to make sense of someone dying so young,” Shane, 45, tells New Idea. “It still amazes me because when people find out I’m Belinda’s brother, they always want to chat about her — whether they knew her in real life or only saw her on TV.”

“She made an enormous influence in such a short period of time.” She crammed a lot into her life, and that’s the lesson I’ve taken away from her: “Live life to the fullest and shine brightly while you still can, because you never know how long you’ll have.”

The list of celebrities who expressed condolences to the Emmett family, which includes former Prime Minister John Howard, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Bono, Delta Goodrem, and Kylie and Dannii Minogue, is a monument to Belinda’s kindness.

Her celebrity-studded burial was held at the same church where she and Rove had happily married just 18 months earlier — Mary Immaculate in the Sydney suburb of Waverley.

The couple said their last goodbyes seven years to the week after first meeting at a Fox Studios party in 1999. “We exchanged a secret joke that no one else got,” Rove later said, “and I thought, ‘Oh, hello!'”

Belinda, who was bright, lively, and gorgeous at the time, believed she had beaten breast cancer, which she had been diagnosed with when she was just 24 years old. However, physicians discovered additional bone cancer in 2001, while she was filming The Nugget opposite Eric Bana, an outback caper film.

“That’s when Belinda found the recurrence,” Shane adds, “but she completed filming – which was fairly astonishing in and of itself.” “And then she spent the next five or six years simply trying to conquer cancer, which was a life-long battle.”

It was a battle Belinda heroically fought, with elegance and utter selflessness. Her final words at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, as expected, were concern for her bereaved elder sister, Lesley Arthur.

“She was always more concerned about other people; I never saw her feel sorry for herself,” says Shane McManus, a father of three who is still close to Rove McManus. “Despite being in and out of chemo and radiation and having all sorts of really, really terrible physical issues, she never brought attention to her disease.”

“We wouldn’t hear a word about any of it.” It was as if she wasn’t unwell at all because it was never a topic of conversation with her. “It was never about Belinda,” 

The gifted actress and singer was always the same growing up in picturesque Umina on NSW’s Central Coast. Shane, who is only 18 months younger than Belinda, remembers her as “faithful to a fault” and passionately protective – both at school and afterwards in the entertainment world when he followed her into it.

The tight-knit Emmett household – two boys and two daughters – enjoyed “endless sunlight” and road journeys to Gold Coast vacations with The Beach Boys classics blasting on the car radio with parents Laraine and Michael.

Every Christmas, the extended family would gather — all four grandparents lived next door to one another – and on New Year’s Eve, great-grandma would give a party at which everyone was expected to perform.

Belinda “dropped into” show business at the age of 20, landing a position on Hey Dad…! before going on to Home and Away, where her portrayal as Rebecca Fisher garnered her a Gold Logie nomination.

Shane, who recently released the second novel in his Obscura fantasy series, adds, “Watching her acquire an agent and audition for things, she found success extremely rapidly.”

“It was thrilling, but it took a long time for me to get the guts to pursue acting as a career.” It was a lovely pleasure to share it with each other after I had done so. Belinda was always phoning and checking in to see if there was anything she could do to help. She was simply unbelievably giving with her time and affection.

“Everyone seemed to gravitate towards her.” She was bubbly and a lot of fun to be around. I’ve worked with a lot of individuals in the film and television industry over the years, and I’ve never met someone who didn’t like her. I admire how much other people admire her.”

“Belinda Jane Emmett-McManus: I chose to be happy, so I am,” the family wrote on a park seat on a beautiful stretch of beach. Her elegance, courage, and brilliance serve as an example to everyone.”

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