Oliver spent his early years in Iran and India. Then at age eight, with his parents in Asia, he went to boarding school and ‘holiday home’ in England. Getting an education was not all bad, and sports were wonderful, especially soccer, boxing, rugby and athletics. Painting and music were just as good.

At eighteen, Oliver’s thoughts turned to making films and living somewhere sunny. His mother’s country beckoned – Australia! Could you make films there? he asked an Australian expat. Not on your life – stay in England, he was advised.  Oliver and his sister took ship for Sydney and went to  Sydney University.

At that time in the early 1960s, Film Australia, (then called the Commonwealth Film Unit) had jobs for production assistants. Oliver started a life in films there, carrying tripods, laying sound tracks, and learning and loving much about his adoptive country. Australia was developing fast, and finding its place in the burgeoning Asia-Pacific. 

Now a writer-director at Film Australia, Oliver joined forces with Producers like Dick Mason and Gil Brealey, who saw the need and widening scope for film making in Australia. Oliver’s first film was a migrant story, a documentary-style short drama about a teenage girl, Toula, in the Greek community. It was the first televised migration film, including Greek language and subtitles.  

Oliver with John Hosking in Papua New Guinea

Following Toula, Oliver went to Papua New Guinea to make that country’s first feature-length drama with an all New Guinean cast, and dialogue in the national spoken language Melanesian Pidgin. The film, titled Wokabaut Bilong Tonten, or Tonten’s Travels, was a celebration of the newly independent nation. In Port Moresby after the shoot, Oliver had his own reasons to celebrate, meeting Patricia, his future wife.They have two daughters.

Film Australia’s first theatrical feature film was Let the Balloon Go, a children’s story by Ivan Southall. It was shown in many countries, recouping its investment. The film was in part a political bid by producer Dick Mason to secure political support for film production in Australia.

Oliver travelled widely in the Asia-Pacific, making two TV documentary series, The Human Face of Japan, and the Human Face of the Pacific.

His most controversial film is the documentary On Sacred Ground, about the struggles of the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley in Western Australia to secure land rights and block mining on sacred sites, which culminated in the Noonkanbah crisis. Political opposition to the film posed the question whether Film Australia’s National Program was independent of government. The film was sold to ABC TV, but its screening was stopped, and it was banned from sales overseas and at film festivals. Years later the ban was reversed.

After leaving Film Australia, Oliver worked as an independent producer, making films on the environment like River Running Out of Time, action on health, and domestic violence. He now volunteers with an aid group supporting Ossu, a mountain town in East Timor. He has published articles on environmental-economic accounting and population policy.

Oliver with long term partner Pat