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Aboriginal Australian actor, Aaron Pedersen (b. 1970), was in foster care as a child. 

Aaron Pedersen was born in Alice Springs, the third of eight children. He is of Arrernte and Arabana descent. As a child, Aaron’s mum was an alcoholic and his father was absent. There was rarely enough food and too much domestic violence, resulting in the children being in and out of foster care as wards of the state. 

Vinnie and I grew up with a lot of violence… a lot of domestic violence. I have nightmares and images of what took place when we were younger,’’ he says in My Brother Vinnie, recalling how he and his brother once cowered “in a corner of the house screaming our heads off while our mother was getting her head punched in. I used to wonder how I was going to get out of this shithole (Pederson in Barlow). 

Aaron left Alice Springs for Melbourne when he was accepted to intern at the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).  

That’s where my change came. I had bigger horizons in my heart and in my mind. I didn’t know anybody in Melbourne and I just went. That’s what was exciting about it. I was intent on challenging myself (Pederson in Barlow). 

Pedersen’s acting career began when he starred in Heartland (1994). The following year he co-hosted the game show Gladiators Australia and performed the role of a lawyer, Vince Cellini, in Wildside (1997).  

Aaron Pedersen has played a number of characters in popular Australian television series, including Detective Senior Constable Michael Reilly in Water Rats (1996-2001), Detective Senior Constable Duncan Freeman in City Homicide (2007-2012), Cam Delray in the Jack Irish series (2016-2021), and Detective Jay Swan in Mystery Road (2018, 2020). 

Aaron is the primary carer for his younger brother, Vincent, who has cerebral palsy. 

It’s my first job really. I’ve always said I’m not really an actor; I’m a carer. Acting’s just my hobby. It’s what I can afford to do in-between and I get some help from another person, Rodney Rocket. I was a carer before I was an actor a long time ago (Pederson in Barlow). 

Aaron Pederson has been nominated for many awards and has won several, including the 2021 AACTA International Award for Best Actor in a Series for his role as Detective Jay Swan in Mystery Road.


Barlow, Helen. “Acting is just my hobby.” The Australian, 11 April 2020.  

Pedersen, Aaron “My Brother Vinnie.” Black Ruby Productions, 2006. 

Vincentelli, Elisabeth. “Aaron Pedersen Is a Different Kind of Archetypal Leading Man.” The New York Times, 12 October 2020. 


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