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Peter Oyston (1938–2011)

by Raelene Wilson

Renowned theatre and film director, teacher and painter Peter Oyston has died.

He was 73.

Oyston, the founding dean of drama at the Victorian College of the Arts, died at his Bend of Islands home on Sunday, October 9, after a protracted battle with prostate cancer.

A past director of the former Playbox Theatre, Oyston was a champion of theatre companies, including The Murray River Performing Group, The Flying Fruit Fly Circus, West Theatre and Theatreworks.

He regularly taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and directed more than 200 productions in Australia, the UK, Japan, France and the US.

Oyston’s daughter, Dominque Oyston, said her father died peacefully at the bush home he loved.

“He was crazy about his grandchildren. He wanted to pass on all his dreams and schemes and philosophy,” Ms Oyston said.

“I could say anything to this man and he would have an opinion or answer that was unique.”

Screenwriter and neighbour Ray Mooney, who shared a close friendship with Oyston for 35 years, met Oyston in the early days of drama at the VCA when he was selected as one of the program’s first directors.

Mr Mooney said Oyston always pushed the people he worked with to reach their potential.

“Whenever he put on a production he wanted the people he worked with to change themselves for the following night, even if it meant the show flopped,” Mr Mooney said.

“He didn’t allow people to accept the comfort of mediocrity, and he spent his life passing that on to people through his own experience.”

Kangaroo Ground actor Debra Lawrance, who performed in The Squire of Kangaroo Ground in July, said she felt privileged to be one of the last actors to work under Oyston’s direction.

“Just before he died, he said to my 12-year-old son, ‘This is an adventure, William. I’m off on a big adventure’,” Ms Lawrance said.

Oyston was cremated last Thursday at a ceremony attended by family and friends.

A book featuring his paintings and poetry will be available at his Bend of Islands studio for Artists Open Studios in November.

A memorial celebration for friends and family will be held on Saturday from 2pm at Samson Hill Estate, 360 Eltham-Yarra Glen Rd, Kangaroo Ground.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Raelene Wilson, 'Oyston, Peter (1938–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Peter Oyston, 1978

Peter Oyston, 1978

Monash University Archives, 4675

Life Summary [details]




9 October, 2011 (aged ~ 73)
Warrandyte, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (prostate)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.