Martha Jane Stewart (née Baldivis) (1989; 2018; 2019-present)
Alison Mulvaney (1989); Belinda Giblin (2018-present)
Episodes: 231, 241, 6850–6857, 7044–7072, 7107–7113, 7214–7217, 7239–7282, 7336–7359, 7448–7517; 7580–7582
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.
Months passed, and Alf called Martha and he came back to town to visit. She and Alf got off to a rocky start, due to his inability to move past the fact she faked her death. He quickly admitted that he called her because he missed her and the pair were able to move forward happily. Together, they went out on the Blaxland to a part of the Bay they used to go to when they first got together. Out on the water, Martha painted a portrait of Alf. A couple of days later, Alf overheard Martha say she loved him, and became short with her. She packed her belongings, planning to leave but Alf caught her, telling her he wouldn’t let her leave him again. They agreed to let whatever it was that they had together run its natural course.
Martha was present at Jett’s farewell dinner before he was deployed and when Marilyn and John sent him a package in preparation for his move to Afghanistan. However, with Roo in the outback, Martha became increasingly concerned when she couldn’t get in contact with her. Martha snapped at Alf when he asked her not to worry, but she later admitted that it was her mental illness playing up. Alf contacted a community centre in the hope that Roo would be there, but he was only able to leave a message. Roo called back not long after, which relieved Martha. With the knowledge that Roo was alright, Martha decided it was time to move back to Merimbula. Alf was devastated, but in an impromptu move, he packed his car and followed her. At a service station, Alf met Martha and the pair left for a fishing trip together.
After the trip, Alf returned to Summer Bay. He received a phone call from her, asking when he was going to tell Roo the truth. No sooner did he answer, did Martha arrive in Summer Bay to Roo’s surprise. She revealed that she and Alf had been seeing each other again. When filling Roo in, they recounted that they hit the road for a couple of weeks and then returned to Martha’s for a rest. One on one, Martha explained that her and Alf wanted to protect her, hence why they hid their relationship from her.
A few days later, Roo found Alf and Martha bickering over the plans for their next holiday. She realised her childhood fantasy of a family holiday could now come true and invited Martha to a family dinner. Martha declined, informing Roo she was leaving town, shocking her. Later, Martha admitted that while her and Alf are together, but they don’t need to live in each other’s pockets. They invited Roo to dinner and explained that their time apart will make their time together more special. The next day, Martha said goodbye to Roo, Marilyn and Leah, reminding them to follow her on Instagram. She then left with Alf.
When Alf cancelled a surf club meeting and ordered a picnic hamper, John and Marilyn guessed that Martha was coming back to the bay. She returned and declared she’d missed Alf. After catching up with Alf, Marilyn and John, she revealed to Roo that she was in the Bay to stay. Later, Alf asked her to stay in his bedroom instead of a caravan. Alf became very protective of Martha and wasn’t happy when Roo and Ryder kept making excuses not to spend time with her. He explained to Martha that he wanted her to move in with him permanently and was worried she wouldn’t get the attention she deserved. Martha announced she was leaving for the duration of the HSC and soon after, Alf decided to go with her. The pair returned three weeks later and revealed Martha was moving to Summer Bay permanently. There were some minor problems with her and Alf after he mistook her running behind as an unwillingness to go through with the move. The pair quickly worked through thisand were happy with their decision to live together.
Martha admitted that she was having some teething issues with moving to town in regard to her mental health. She consulted Alex, who put her in contact with a specialist at the hospital. She comforted Alf after Leah went missing. She apologised to Roo as she was seeing what Leah’s disappearance was doing to them and realised what her own disappearance must’ve done to them.
Martha and Alf went on a short trip up the coast and returned to the news that Robbo and Mason had been killed. Realising how short life was, Alf proposed to her, but she declined as she felt he wasn’t being sincere, and it was a kneejerk reaction. Now knowing the truth, Alf got down on bended know and proposed properly. She accepted, gleefully. A week later, Martha walked down the aisle and became Mrs. Alf Stewart once again, 51 years after their original nuptials. Despite deciding against a honeymoon, Martha and Alf quickly changed their mind and headed off on a trip, beginning with a visit to Alf’s sisters to tell them the news.
The couple returned a few months later, and met Ryder’s terminally ill father, Evan Slater. No sooner had Martha returned, did she leave again for Merimbula, this time for an art exhibition where her art was being shown. She decided to stay on longer after her friend took a turn. After a few weeks, Alf decided to go visit Martha. The pair later returned to Summer Bay, with an obvious tension between them. Once they’d exchanged one too many snide remarks, Alf questioned Martha on whether she was going to sell her house in Merimbula. She assured him that while she loved him, and their life together, she also has a life in Merimbula she doesn’t want to throw away. After avoiding the question for days, Martha finally revealed that the reason she doesn’t want to sell her house is because it is where she goes to heal. Although she is healthy at the moment, knowing she has a place to go should she relapse, makes her feel better. She eventually spoke to Alf, who offered to move to Merimbula for her. She rebutted the offer, appreciative of Alf willing to make such a sacrifice, but happily agreed to stay in Summer Bay as long as she can keep her house.
As the weeks went by, Martha’s happiness was shattered by the arrival of a letter from a man named Kieran. She revealed to Irene that after she left Alf, she bore a son, whom she had called the police on the last time she saw him. She headed up to Merimbula in secret to see him. A few days later, when she returned, she opened up to Alf about Kieran – that he was a violent drunk whom she’d had to call the police on once – leaving him devastated. Martha was surprised to learn that Kieran had followed her back to the bay, and was nervous as he was introduced to his stepfather and half-sister. Kieran was offered a caravan, on the provision that he wouldn’t visit Martha alone. Kieran’s presence in the bay took a toll on Martha and Alf and strained their relationship. He left not long after arriving. She organised with Alf to use a caravan as an art studio, but secretly called Kieran and begged him to return to live in the van. Martha found him on the pier and was elated to see him again. Irene approached them and asked who Martha was talking to. When she introduced Kieran as her son, Irene’s point of view revealed the truth – Martha was imagining Kieran.
Worried about her friend, Irene told Alf and Roo who confronted Martha. Furious that they’d accuse of her of being ill, she stormed out of the house. The next day, they resumed their conversation and Alf told her that she would be going to talk to a counsellor. She agreed and was kept in for a full assessment. A week later, she escaped from the hospital. Believing she might be in her ‘studio’ Alf and Roo found that she had Kieran’s clothes lain out on the bed. However, Martha arrived at Irene’s house, wanting her to corroborate her story so that no one thought she was sick again. Irene refused, assuring her that Kieran was a figment of her imagination.
Knowing that she needed professional help, Alf was able to talk a reluctant Martha into agreeing to go back to the hospital for an extended stay. Before she left, Martha headed to the diner to apologise to Irene for the position she put her in. Irene assured her that there was nothing to be sorry for. Realising how upset Martha was at the hospital, Alf had a change of heart and decided to take her home. The hospital staff were against it, but Alf wouldn’t take no for an answer, which allowed Martha some relief.
When she went to clean out her ‘studio’, hoping it would be cathartic, she found that Kieran was inside. Martha was convinced that she was imagining him again and alerted Alf and Roo. By the time they got back to the caravan Kieran was gone. The next day, after a big night drinking, Kieran held Martha captive in the van, and eventually forced her into a car and drove her away from Summer Bay. Thinking on her feet, she called the police when he stopped to fill up the car with petrol and he was arrested. That night, she admitted to Alf that she was mentally ill and that she needed proper help but wanted to do it on her own.
When she returned three months later, Alf and Roo were overly protective of her. Roo held back the news that Kieran’s lawyers had been in contact with her. Before they could tell her, she overheard them arguing about it. She asked them not to hide things from her just because they think it’ll help her. She decided to hold off on allowing contact with Kieran until she was in a better state of mind and asked Alf and Roo to honour that. The next day, she and Alf left for Merimbula.
*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.