Betty Burstall

Betty Burstall was inducted into the Honour Roll for her contribution to Australian theatre through the creation of La Mama theatre in Melbourne.

Honour Roll

Betty Burstall was born in Melbourne on 4 February 1926. She was educated at the Methodist Ladies College and the University of Melbourne. She married Tim Burstall in 1948 and together they built a mud brick house in Eltham, and had two sons. Later Betty joined the staff at the Eltham High School and taught there for ten years.

In the mid-60s Tim was awarded a fellowship to study in the United States and Betty and sons Don and Tom accompanied him. It was during these years in New York that Betty discovered off-Broadway coffee-house theatre, and particularly Ellen Stewart at the La Mama Theatre.

On returning to Melbourne in 1967, she found a suitable building in Carlton and set up Melbourne's La Mama, intending it to be a showcase for contemporary Australian writers, actors and directors. Her enterprise was successful and has played a pivotal role in the renaissance of Australian drama. After ten years as director of La Mama, Betty handed the theatre over to Liz Jones who has directed its activities ever since, and in whose capable hands it continues to flourish and expand.

From 1975-90 Betty lived mainly in Greece. At the age of 54 she began to paint and was then on her primary interest. After her return to Australia, she held several solo exhibitions, and her paintings of the Peninsula and inner suburbs of Melbourne have become well known through a series of postcard reproductions.