Ailsa had no idea that her sister even had a child until a Docs worker turned up on her doorstep with the news that her niece, 17 year old Emma had been charged with assault on her stepfather and could either stay with Ailsa or go to a remand centre. Alf and Ailsa rowed over whether they should take Emma in with Ailsa defending Emma’s charge as she herself committed murder. Alf returned home to tell Ailsa that he wouldn’t have their marriage put at risk for a kid they’d never met, only for Ailsa to introduce him to Emma.
Emma tried to buy alcohol from Celia’s store and was asked for ID. She insited she was twenty but looked young for her age but Celia refused to serve her and Emma verbally laid into her calling her ‘an old cow and a dried up old prune’. When Alf and Ailsa demanded to know where she’d been Emma announced that she had though Ailsa would be more fun because she’d been in jail and that was why she’d asked to stay with her. Ailsa refused to admit what she had been in jail for but lectured Emma on how it wasn’t glamorous and nothing like the remand centers that Emma had been in. They ended on an agreement, both agreeing to stay out of the other’s way.
Emma continued her rude insolence but did impress Ailsa by ringing around for a job. Ailsa suggested that Emma introduce herself to Bobby at The Diner but she and Bobby instantly got off on the wrong foot with Bobby warning Emma that Summer Bay was ‘a conservative, narrow-minded community’ and that her style of dress wouldn’t be acceptable. Emma asked for a job anyway and Bobby had no choice but to give her one or upset Ailsa. Emma though proved to be a lazy employee and was threatened by Bobby with the sack but Emma replied that giving her the sack would be doing her a favour. Emma further infuriated Celia by accusing her of watching over her like she was going to steal something and using bad language. Celia insisted on an apology and was backed up by Fisher who overheard the exchange.
Emma was taken out on a date by Adam in his boat but when he tried to touch her she freaked out causing him to announce that he had only taken her out for a bet anyway. Hurt, Emma drilled holes in his boat causing it to sink in the race the next day. She owned up to her actions and Adam tried to apologise to her. She pretended to accept his apology before telling him he could jump in a river which he did in an attempt to impress her. Alf lectured her over her actions but later apologised and tried to hug her but Emma pushed him away, screaming at him not to touch her. She later confided in Carly that she was abused by her stepfather after her real father died when she was eight. She continued to vent her male hatred by scaring Matt away from Viv and winning Viv’s friendship in the process. She ignored Bobby’s warning that her ego was so big her head was at bursting point, and someone was going to kick it in someday.
Emma and Viv went out to the Blue Light Disco, promising to be back at eleven but when Viv returned home drunk at ten past one Fisher banned her from seeing Emma. When Viv reported the news to Emma she retaliated that Viv shouldn’t let Fisher push her around and told Fisher that Viv has a right to a life. Emma then determined to get herself the sack only for Ailsa to let her off at every opportunity, infuriating Bobby. When she dropped food deliberately on Fisher it was the last straw for Bobby who told Ailsa that either Emma leave or she does. Ailsa struggled to tell Emma she was sacked and when she finally did, Emma reacted furiously and after Ailsa left she suggested that Ailsa didn’t really go to jail but was just saying that and that she wouldn’t even say what she was in for. Alf retaliated that Ailsa was in for murder and that she had a very good reason. When Celia later filled Emma in on Ailsa’s reason Emma told her she was a hero but Ailsa didn’t want to talk about it. She tried to get more information out of Alf on a driving lesson but nearly crashed the car and laid into Celia when she tried to talk to her about it. Ailsa later sat her down and told her how horrible jail was and how it was terrible to have no privacy. Emma hugged Ailsa telling her that she was the only friend she had.
She snuck round to see Viv but was caught by Fisher shaving part of Viv’s hair off into replica of her own. When Ailsa told her that she was having trouble finding her a new job, Emma surprised her by offering to go back to school. Fisher insisted that if she came back to school she’d have to abide by the dress code but Emma tells him to stick it. She later ran into Morag who offered to defend her and they returned to school with Morag threatening to take Fisher to the anti-discrimination board if he refused to enroll Emma. Fisher agreed to let her into school if she passed a test so Viv stole a copy of the paper, allowing Emma to cheat and pass the test. Viv arrived in Emma’s first class dressed in similar punk clothing to her friend but Fisher ignored their rebellion and later turned up in school wearing punk clothing himself. The rebellion quickly died a death but Emma continued to lead Viv astray.
They skipped school and accepted a ride from two guys who drove them out to a deserted forest but when things started to get heavy Emma panicked and kicked him before escaping. luckily Steven was passing and came to their rescue along with Alf who took a distraught Emma home. She sobbed to Ailsa that her experience reminded her of what had happened with her stepfather. She thanked Steven for rescuing her and asked him out but Steven told her she wasn’t his type so Emma turned up to the dance dressed normally in an attempt to impress him. She tried to get him to spend time with her getting his help with her homework and asking him to watch videos with her but when Duncan started crying Steven took his chance and left with Viv. She asked Carly for advice on impressing a guy but Carly passed the information on to Steven who tried to set Emma up with his new friend Rory.
Emma was delighted to get her driving license and took Viv out for a drive. She let Viv have a go at the wheel but Viv crashed into Revhead and Skid’s car and they demanded $200 with interest. Viv tried to steal the money from fisher but Bobby sussed they were up to something and confronted Emma who explained what had happened. Bobby got them off the hook by letting Viv and Emma keep Revhead and Skid talking while Lance and Martin repaired the damage to their car.
After realising that Morag’s house was empty Emma planned to use it for parties but first had to get rid of Celia who was hanging around. She told Celia horror stories about an axe murder that happened there in the 1800s and they enlisted Adam’s help to convince Celia. She began to fall for Adam and shared a kiss with him but he was still dating Carly and she was nervous after he made a bet on her lat time he asked her out. He managed to convince her that he was genuine. With Celia now convinced of ghosts in the house, Emma convinced her to steal the holy water from church but Andrew guessed what they were up to and he helped Celia get her revenge.
With Adam having dumped Carly, he and Emma became an item but Grant Mitchell’s arrival in town saw Emma’s head turned and she alternated between helping Adam sabotage his chances in the surf competition and flirting with him. When Celia held a beauty pageant she and Bobby deliberately sabotaged it by having Emma come out wearing pyjamas and a blanket and give a speech on feminist rights which caused the winner, Marilyn, to turn down the award. She asked Grant out but he turned her down and later turned up at school as her teacher.
Unwittingly she got him into trouble when she told Vicki Baxter, who had a crush on Grant, that he had said horrible things about her. Vicki got her revenge by telling Fisher that Grant sexually assaulted her and Emma tried her best to get Vicki to change her story but her bullying tactics only pushed Vicki further over the edge. She turned a new corner with Alf though when she broke his father’s golf club and sold her leather jacket to buy him a new one and he gave her a cheque for $100 in an attempt at an apology.
Unknown to Emma, her mother Bridget had returned to town and was watching her. When Bridget told Ailsa she wanted to take Emma back, Ailsa told her about Emma being abused by her stepfather so Bridget tried to talk to Emma but Emma refused to speak to her. Bridget finally cornered Emma on the beach and during their conversation Bridget managed to convince Emma that she kicked Barry out after he drunkenly confessed to abusing Emma. With Ailsa and Bridget at each other’s throats and Emma caught in the middle Bridget went all out to win her over, buying her a dress and treating her to a night out. Emma announced that she wanted to go back and live with her mother and she departed after an emotional goodbye.
A few months later Alf answered a knock on his door to find Emma stood on his doorstep. After a few days of being a bitch to everyone around her, Emma admitted to Alf that her mother betrayed her and was only using her. With Viv gone she befriended Steven by giving him driving lessons and resumed her relationship with Adam but things weren’t going well with Emma losing interest. She set her sights on new boy in town Paul Jensen and asked Carly for advice on how to dump Adam. Carly advised her to be honest but Emma couldn’t do it when Adam started making more of an effort. After a kiss with Paul she finally dumped him, telling him he was a ‘yobbo’ and that she should have dumped him ages ago.
Vicki Baxter conned Emma into a bet on the outcome of her exams and later stole an exam paper and hid it in Emma’s locker to frame her. Nobody but Bobby believed Emma was innocent and when Vicki set Emma up by having Fisher witness Emma attacking Vicki, Fisher decided she should be expelled. She was hurt that Ailsa and Alf didn’t believe her and more upset when Paul started hanging around with Vicki. It turned out that he was only getting close to Vicki as part of a plot with Steven to clear Emma’s name. The truth was revealed and Emma and Paul reunited as Fisher, Alf and Ailsa all apologised to her. Despite their reunion, Emma confides to Steven that her feelings for Paul no longer run as deep as they did before and after convincing herself that she didn’t get the job she wanted on the gold coast, she disappeared on a night out, leaving Paul and Steven to hang out with some old friends from the city.
Alf and Ailsa were worried when she didn’t return home, especially when Ailsa received a call saying that Emma had got the job she wanted. When Emma returned she was dressed back as a punk with newly dyed black hair but regretted her actions when Ailsa told her about the job. With Ailsa’s help she manages to fix her hair and told Paul that her feelings for him had cooled but that she wanted to stay friends. She convinced Fisher to write her a reference and practically told im what to put in it after he struggled with what to say. She said an emotional goodbye to Alf and broke down when she said goodbye to Ailsa before departing on a bus for the Gold Coast.
When Emma first arrived she named her stepfather as Eric, this was later changed to Barry