Shirley Barrett. (Image: Karl Schwerdtfeger)

Acclaimed director and screenwriter Shirley Barrett has died aged 60.

She is known for her work across TV and film, including her debut feature Love Serenade, which was awarded the Camera D’Or at Cannes in 1996.

Daughter Emmeline Norris confirmed that her mother died in her sleep around 8am on Wednesday, August 3 in her Sydney home surrounded by her family, after succumbing to metastatic breast cancer, with which she was diagnosed in 2017.

In a post on social media yesterday, Norris described Barrett as “not only a brilliant filmmaker and writer, but more importantly a loving mother to me and my sister, the lifelong soulmate of our dad, and the best friend one could ask for”.

Born in Melbourne, Barrett moved to Sydney in mid-80s to attend AFTRS, going on to write and direct short film Cherith in her final year, a project that won her the Australian Film Institute (AFI) award for Best Short Fiction Film.

After directing episodes of Boys From the Bush, Heartbreak High, and Police Rescue, she turned her attention to feature films with Love Serenade, a story about two sisters, played by Mirando Otto and Rebecca Frith, in an Australian country town that develop a fierce and competitive crush on their new neighbour (George Shevtsov).

Four years later, Barrett released her second film, Walk the Talk, a comedy about a talent agent (Salvatore Coco) who uses his paraplegic girlfriend’s government compensation to fund his quest to resurrect a faded club singer’s career.

She continued to her showcase her directing talent on the small screen with Love My Way, before collaborating with Otto again on her third feature, South Solitary, a 2010 romantic drama about an unmarried woman who moves to a remote lighthouse with her uncle and a caretaker.

Since then, Barrett directed episodes of Packed to the Rafters, Wild Boys, House Husbands, Mr & Mrs Murder, Love Child, Winter, A Place to Call Home, Offspring, on which she was also a writer, Home & Away, and Five Bedrooms.

The prolific creative has also released two novels — 2014’s Rush Oh! and 2018’s The Bus On Thursday.

Barrett has written openly about her cancer diagnosis and how it has impacted her life.

In an article for The Guardian published in March, she reflected on how her perspective had shifted since her initial diagnosis.

“For a while there, having cancer is like having a demanding casual job,” she wrote.

“Your diary fills with medical appointments which mysteriously give you a sense of purpose. You become very attached to your doctors; your three-weekly appointment with them feels like a lunch date with an old friend.

“But then… but then… it gets to the point where you just can’t do it any more, and I am at that point now. I just want to fade quietly into oblivion. My girls wrap their arms around me and weep. There’s no way to make any of this better for them, and that’s the hardest part.”

Barrett is survived by her husband Chris and their two daughters Emmeline and Sabrina.

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