Mini Bio: Betty Burstall

Lana Wilson / June 18, 2013 04:59 PM

Who’s Who of Australian Women pays tribute to an Australian theatre icon.

Betty Burstall


Who’s Who of Australian Women entrant Betty Margaret Burstall AM is without a doubt a champion of the Australian theatre scene. Born on 4 February 1926 in Melbourne, she began her career as a secondary school teacher at Eltham High School, in Melbourne’s leafy outer northern suburbs.

After returning to Melbourne in 1967 from New York, Burstall established the legendary La Mama Theatre – inspired by the Off-Broadway coffee house scene of which she experienced during her trip to the Big Apple.

She built the theatre in Melbourne’s Italian precinct, on Faraday Street in Carlton, and had an active role in the management of the institution up until the late 1990’s. Throughout tough economic hardships, it is believed that Burstall even funded the theatre herself.

Burstall’s son, Tom, told Fairfax of a vivid childhood where his mother would pour her heart and soul into the life of the theatre, and regularly held dinners on Friday evenings “to create a salon, but also to pay the rent.”

In 1993 Burstall was a recipient of a Member of the Order of Australia award (AM).

The La Mama Theatre founder and Melbourne-based Artist sadly passed away on Friday, 14 June 2013.

A true patron of Australian arts and a theatre legend, Who’s Who of Australian Women remembers Betty Burstall.

La Mama Theatre will celebrate Betty's legacy with an open gathering in the theatre’s forecourt in coming weeks. For more information see

Sources:  Who’s Who, Fairfax, La Mama Theatre

For more biographies on thousands of prominent Australians, see Who’s Who Live.

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