Former BTC educator and CSU benefactor remembered

A retired academic who has had a long association with Charles Sturt University (CSU) and its predecessor institution Bathurst Teachers’ College (BTC) has died after a long career in arts and education.

Former BTC lecturer and donor to CSU Dr Oliver Fiala (pictured left) fled post-World War Two Europe to make a new life in Australia.

Dr Fiala and his wife Mrs Heather Fiala, AM, are long-time supporters of the Charles Sturt Foundation.

More than a decade ago they donated a number of valuable books to the CSU Faculty of Education, including drama texts, a number of which were written by Dr Fiala.

These are housed in the Truskett Library at CSU in Bathurst and are known as ‘The Fiala Collection’. At the time of donation, the Library valued the collection at approximately $40,000.

Director of CSU Advancement Ms Sarah Ansell said, “Dr Oliver Fiala and his wife Heather have been very generous long-term supporters of the University and its students.

“The Fialas have been committed to enhancing both the educational outcomes of students and the University community, and the wider appreciation of the arts in general.

“Their insightful contribution has been inclusive, impactful, and inspiring because they understood that they were able to enrich individual lives and society broadly. We are so grateful.”

Born and educated in Moravia, Czechoslovakia, in 1923, Oliver Fiala studied at the Conservatorium of Music and Dramatic Arts before fleeing as a political refugee in 1948.

After arriving in Sydney in 1949, Dr Fiala travelled by train to the migrant camp at Kelso outside Bathurst which housed many new arrivals from post-war Europe.

During this early period, he worked in a variety of manual jobs in and around Bathurst until he received a scholarship to attend Sydney Teacher’s College from which he graduated in 1958.

He later gained a Master of Education, and subsequently received a Fulbright Fellowship travel grant to complete his PhD at the University of Colorado.

It was in 1962 that Dr Fiala was offered a position as a drama lecturer at BTC in Bathurst. This role involved not only teaching, but also included producing two plays each year and acting as the dramatic advisor for the Little Theatre Club and annual College Revue at BTC.

During this time Dr Fiala wrote Drama in Action, a secondary school drama teaching program.

It was from BTC that he departed for the USA to complete his PhD as a Fulbright Scholar.

Upon his return to Australia, Dr Fiala accepted a position lecturing in drama at the University of NSW, and later became a senior lecturer and acting Head of the School of Drama there.

In 1972 he initiated the establishment of a Chapter of the Czechoslavak Society of Arts and Sciences in Sydney, and served as its President for more than 12 years. He helped establish the Toe Truck and Shopfont theatres, and the NSW Theatre of the Deaf, and wrote and published articles about drama in education.

Dr Fiala’s funeral was held at the Uniting Church in Bowral on Monday 22 October.

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