Actress Wendy Hughes.

Actress Wendy Hughes has died. Photo: Roger Cummins

Australian actress Wendy Hughes has died at the age of 61.

The Melbourne-born star of My Brilliant Career and longtime actor in the Network Ten drama State Coroner is understood to have died of cancer in Sydney early on Saturday morning.

Actor Bryan Brown announced the death to the audience of Sydney Theatre Company's Travelling North on Saturday afternoon, inviting theatregoers to honour the late actress with a standing ovation.

Picture of Wendy Hughes in a telemovie called Puzzle in 1978. Click for more photos

Wendy Hughes' brilliant career

Picture of Wendy Hughes in a telemovie called Puzzle in 1978.

Working across TV, film and the stage, Hughes was one of Australia's best recognised actresses, sensationally appearing in The Graduate in Sydney in 2001 and in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 2007. 

Peter Evans, co-artistic director at Bell Shakespeare, directed the Sydney Theatre Company's production of Pygmalion, in which Hughes most recently starred in 2012. 

"She was a star, such a straight shooter, incredibly generous and incredibly down to earth," Evans said.

"She didn't suffer fools - you knew exactly where you stood with Wendy."

A collaborator with director Paul Cox, with whom she worked on Salvation, Hughes studied at the National Institute of Dramatic Art and in 1983 won the Australian Film Institute's Best Lead actress award for her role in Careful, He Might Hear You.

She had a daughter, Charlotte, with actor Chris Haywood, and a son, Jay, with restaurateur Patrick Juillet. Hughes was married for a short time to Sean Scully, whom she met while on tour with the play Butterflies are Free.