Val was born in Western Australia, where she attended St Hilda's Catholic School. However, in the 1950s her family relocated to Victoria and after completing her high school education, Val went on to study arts at Melbourne's RMIT. There she began to hon her acting skills and throughout the 1960s and 1970s became heavily involved in acting and directing - mostly in amatuer productions.
In 1978, Val auditioned for the role of Vera 'Vinegar Tits' Bennett in the up and coming new women's prison drama 'Prisoner'.
However, once the casting director saw Val's audition, he quickly changed his mind - instead slotting her into the part of Bea Smith - Val's most famous and recognizable role to date.
After earning three Logie awards for her portrayal of Bea Smith, Val left 'Prisoner' in 1983 to pursue other career options.
Since 'Prisoner', Val has appeared in many stage plays, including 'A Street Car Named Desire', 'Touch Of Silk' and 'Cake' and directed several others, mostly in the United Kingdom. Her most recognizable directing role was 'French Paste' for the Coliseum Theatre, Oldham.
Since returning to Australia, Val guest roles in 'Blue Heelers', 'Good Guys Bad Guys, 'Something In The Air', 'MDA' a major role in the ABC telemovie 'Secret Bridesmaid’s Business'.