Image courtesy of the NLA
David Williamson David Williamson i(A21523 works by) (a.k.a. David Keith Williamson)
Born: Established: 1942 Melbourne, Victoria, ;
Gender: Male
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David Williamson was brought up in Bentleigh, Melbourne, until the family moved to Bairnsdale, Victoria in 1954. He was educated at the Bairnsdale high school but moved to Melbourne for his last year. Apart from his enthusiasm for drama and literature, Williamson was also good at mathematics and physics, and he completed a mechanical engineering degree at Monash University in 1964.

Dissatisfied with his course of study, Williamson wrote satirical sketches for student reviews and the Emerald Hill Theatre. In 1964 he spent a year working at General Motors Holden but had little interest in car design. He continued to write after becoming a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Swinburne Institute of Technology in 1966 and studied part-time for a postgraduate degree in social psychology at the University of Melbourne. An active opponent of the Vietnam War, he became the inaugural president of the Youth Campaign Against Conscription.

Williamson saw his first play performed in 1968 when the Tin Pan Alley Players produced 'The Indecent Exposure of Anthony East', an unpublished play satirising corporatism. His first full-length play, The Coming of Stork, was performed in 1970 and adapted to film the following year. This process would be repeated for a number of Williamson's plays. By this time Williamson was lecturing in engineering and his new discipline, social psychology. In 1972 he resigned these lectureships to pursue writing full-time after the critical and commercial success of his plays Don's Party and The Removalists. More than twenty plays have followed this success, bringing Williamson numerous awards and exposure overseas.

Overseas productions frequently took Williamson to the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1978 he was Visiting Professor of Drama at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, for a semester. On his return Williamson moved to inner Sydney, which provided a more congenial climate and access to the centre of broadcasting, theatre and film activity. He became increasingly involved in a parallel career of writing screenplays for film and television that brought him international recognition.

Following a falling out with the Sydney Theatre Company Williamson promised his next play, After the Ball (1997) to the Queensland Theatre Company under Robyn Nevin. Williamson had spent increasing periods on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland during the 1990s and by 1997 had relocated to Noosa while retaining an apartment in Sydney.

In June 2005, after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, Williamson announced his retirement from writing for the theatre. However, an adaptation of Geoffrey Robertson's 'The Tyrannicide Brief' had a reading by the Sydney Theatre Company on 7 April 2006, and his play 'Strings under My Fingers' was premiered at the Noosa Longweekend arts festival in mid-June 2006. With treatment restoring his health, Williamson returned to writing plays and in June 2008 a new romantic comedy, 'Scarlett O'Hara at the Crimson Parrot', was produced by the Melbourne Theatre Company.

Williamson's plays explore the interactions within social groups such as academic departments, clubs or parties. The collision of temperaments within these groups produce dramatic situations which Williamson uses to satirize the emotional and moral frailty of Australia's educated middle-class. Despite severe criticism for this narrow cultural focus during the 1980s, Williamson has continued to write plays that filled theatres, exposing his audiences to the good and evil of human nature in an unapologetic Australian setting. Williamson wrote twenty-two produced scripts for film and television between 1974 and 1995.

Williamson received Honorary Doctorates of Literature from the University of Sydney (1988), Monash University (1990), Swinburne University of Technology (1996) and the University of Queensland (2004). His plays and screenplays have won many awards.

(Source: Adapted from Brian Kiernan 'David Williamson (24 February 1942- ), Australian Writers, 1950-1975, Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 289. Ed. Selina Samuels (2004): 325-334)).

Most Referenced Works


  • David Williamson was included in the Bulletin's '100 Most Influential Australians' list in 2006.
  • Williamson also co-wrote, with Kristin Williamson (q.v.), the television series Dog's Head Bay. Although conceived as an ongoing series, only one season of 13 episodes was filmed. Season one was broadcast on the ABC, 16 August to 8 November 1999.

Awards for Works

Managing Carmen 2012 single work drama Brent Lyall is a freakish young sporting talent. At the age of 23 he is already captain of one of the most powerful football clubs in the land. Managed by the legendary Rohan Swift (Garry McDonald), Brent's blossoming career, and the millions that come with it, seem assured. But Brent has an explosive secret which is on the verge of becoming public. So Rohan hires the brilliant psychologist Jessica to find out what Brent is trying to hide...but soon wishes he hadn't. (Source: Ensemble Theatre website)
2013 nominated Matilda Awards Best New Australian Play
Balibo 2008 single work film/TV mystery thriller crime

'Jose Ramos Horta, twenty-five years old in 1975, and a member of the Fretilin Government, lures Darwin-based Australian journalist Roger East to East Timor to investigate the disappearance of the 'Balibo Five' - journalists Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart (Ch9) and from their rival network Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie (Ch7).

On the morning of October 16, all five men, though identifying themselves as journalists from Australia, are killed in cold blood by the invading Indonesian troops, and their bodies burnt. East does not accept the official story that soon emerges, that the men were killed in cross-fire. Horta and East travel from Dili to Balibo, now occupied during the daytime by Indonesian forces, to try and uncover the truth of the journalists' death.

Back in Dili, East decides to stay on while other journalists are evacuated, in the knowledge that Indonesian forces will soon land in the capital. The very next day Indonesian paratroopers and commandos land from the sea and immediately capture East who is reporting the invasion. Defiant to the end, East is executed the next day on the Dili wharf by an Indonesian execution squad.' Source: http://film.vic.gov.au (Sighted 12/08/2008).

2010 nominated Film Critics Circle of Australia Best Original Screenplay
2010 nominated Film Critics Circle of Australia Best Film
2010 winner AWGIE Awards Film Award Screenplay Adaptation
2009 winner AFCA Film Awards Best Film
2009 winner Australian Film Institute Awards Best Adapted Screenplay
2009 nominated Australian Film Institute Awards Best Film
2009 nominated Inside Film Awards Best Script
2009 nominated Inside Film Awards Best Feature Film
Sanctuary 1995 single work film/TV

Robert 'Bob' King is a TV reporter with an international reputation, home from the US after years spent covering major conflicts. John is an academic who has written a book exposing the lies of Bob's career and has come to confront him about them. It's a conflict of style as well as substance: the rich, physically imposing Bob and the nerdy, sweating John. At heart, the film is about ruthlessness, specifically the point at which someone trades honesty for personal gain.

1995 nominated Australian Film Institute Awards Best Adapted Screenplay
Last amended 3 Aug 2016 11:46:53
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