Occupation: Shop assistant; Caravan Park co-owner; Artist
Martha grew up in Summer Bay, the daughter of Jack and Sarah Baldivis, and wed local bachelor Alf Stewart on 5th April 1969. Following their marriage they took over Summer Bay House and the caravan park from Alf’s parents, and in early 1971, Martha gave birth to a daughter, Ruth. Martha was believed to have drowned* in 1985, and a grief-stricken Alf later sold the family property to the Fletchers.
Martha first appeared onscreen in 1989, when Bobby found her diaries during her quest to learn the identities of her biological parents. Through flashbacks, Martha recounted learning about Bobby’s conception. On 9th August 1970, she received a phone call whilst working at the general store from a mystery person she called ‘B’, who revealed she was pregnant to her husband’s best friend. When a customer entered, Martha assured B that she’d call her back, and that they would sort something out. On 14th August, Martha wrote that B was five months pregnant, and that they had agreed to adopt the child out.
Four months later, Martha made another diary entry, revealing that B had delivered a baby girl, whom she couldn’t face. She wrote that she had found Al and Doris Simpson to adopt the child to, and that B would support them financially, albeit with Martha as the go-between.
After Bobby and Frank came to a dead-end with the diaries, they approached Celia who recalled that she and Les had first broke their engagement news to Martha. However, Martha had already made plans to go away with B, and as such, couldn’t attend the engagement party, which left Celia saddened.
Two weeks later, Alf opened up to Ailsa, revealing that after Martha’s funeral in 1985, Roo found her diaries. He never read them until Ailsa came onto the scene, and in doing so, he learnt that Martha, who was pregnant with Roo at the time, had concocted a plan to move B interstate as soon as she began showing, and Martha would be there for the birth. The day before Bobby’s birth, B made sure that the Simpsons would never learn about her identity.
Martha always looked out for Bobby, and Alf stated that when Martha died fifteen years later, B (which stood for Bugsy, a nickname coined by Martha) had no go-between, and so the money supply to the Simpsons ended. Eventually Ailsa realised that Bugsy was actually Alf’s sister, Morag.
For almost thirty years, Martha wasn’t seen on-screen, though was sometimes mentioned. However, in 2018, whilst trapped in a sinkhole with Roo and believing his death was imminent, Alf informed her that Martha was in fact alive. It was subsequently revealed that Alf had received a letter from Martha some time around late 1988, explaining that she felt she had been living a lie and had chosen to fake her own death.
Roo began a search for her mother, and enlisted the help of police officer Colby, who dug out the police file on Martha’s disappearance. This revealed that the police had ruled Martha dead after suspecting that she fell from the headland and drowned, with the investigation turning up no further leads. After he initially refused to help, Alf handed a ring—a Stewart family heirloom that Alf had given to Martha on their 10th wedding anniversary—over to Roo, which Martha had sent back to Alf alongside her letter. From the box, Roo learnt that the ring had been sent from Merimbula, and she went searching for her.
Roo was unsuccessful in locating her mother, however a week later, Martha arrived at Summer Bay House, having been tipped off by a friend that Roo had come looking for her. Upon seeing Martha, Alf became very hostile, and refused to associate with his ex-wife.
Roo began to reacquaint herself with her mother, and learnt that Martha lived a largely reclusive existence in Wallumatta—a town with only a handful of houses, a few hours outside of Merimbula—where she mainly concentrates on her art and gardening. However when Roo tried to further the conversation, Martha was reticent, quickly running off when asked about why she left Summer Bay.
The next day, Martha opened up to Roo, explaining that it wasn’t until after she’d left Summer Bay that she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It was her illness that had caused Martha to find it hard to connect with her family, thinking it would be better for her daughter if she wasn’t around. An upset Roo affirmed to Martha that this was not the case, and after Martha admitted she was wrong, they eventually made amends. However, Alf refused to forgive Martha, telling his daughter that Martha was dead to him.
A couple of days later, Martha thanked Roo, telling her that it’d been great to get reacquainted with her. Roo believed it’d be a good idea to tell Alf after her mental illness, but Martha thwarted the idea, saying that he wouldn’t understand. Alf walked in and saw them in the Diner together, and immediately walked back out, fuelling Martha’s decision that it was time to leave. Roo organised a dinner for her parents to say a proper goodbye. They both reluctantly agreed, however Martha stood Alf up.
The next day, Alf found Martha leaving a goodbye note for Roo and asked her why she left. After revealing the truth, she elaborated that she tried to tell him, but didn’t think he’d understand. He blew up at the thought that she was blaming him and explained that he would’ve, because he loved her – he thought they were forever.
Afterwards, Martha downloaded to Roo that she wished she’d told Alf the truth years ago. She explained that she thought there was still something between her and Alf, and that she should visit the bay again. Roo didn’t think that it would be the best idea because it hadn’t been the best thing for Alf. Having agreed that Roo would come and visit her in Wallumatta, Martha shared a hug with her daughter before leaving town. Roo went to visit her a couple of weeks later, and found that she had painted several portraits of her as a child.
*In the 1980’s, off-screen publicity material and novelisations gave the cause of Martha’s apparent drowning as a sailing accident. When shown on-screen in 2018, the cause of drowning was instead said to be a result of her falling off the headland.
With the surname of councillor Merv also being Baldivis, fans had speculated whether Martha could have been Merv’s daughter. However Bevan Lee, writer of the Pilot episode and Story Editor for the first 18 months of the show, has confirmed to BTTB that he saw Martha as some sort of cousin or other removed relation of Merv’s—given the same surname often pops up in small towns with both close and distant relatives. The idea was further debunked when Martha’s death certificate showed her father’s name to be Jack Baldivis.