Professor Deborah Cheetham AO, a Yorta Yorta woman and pioneer of the operatic arts in Australia, has created an invaluable legacy of Indigenous performers.

Barbara Cheetham AO performer

Professor Deborah Cheetham AO


Professor Deborah Cheetham AO has been at the heart of Australian opera for more than 25 years.

A proud Yorta Yorta woman, she has entertained audiences with her own, powerful soprano voice and been a pioneer for the art form, creating an invaluable legacy of Indigenous performers.

Deborah describes herself as, ‘a 21st century urban woman who is Yorta Yorta by birth, stolen generation by policy, soprano by diligence, composer by necessity and lesbian by practice’. However, that pithy summary doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of her contribution to inspiring generations of performing artists, musicians, students, academics and communities.

In 2019, Deborah founded Short Black Opera, Australia’s national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous singers. A decade later, she launched the One Day in January project, which develops and nurtures Indigenous orchestral musicians.

Now a Professor of Music Practice at Monash University, Deborah says she is thrilled to be performing as part of the 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined.

'Elders are the most treasured members of Indigenous communities. I would love to see an Australia that honours its elders in the way our Indigenous communities do'

Anything I can do to promote that reality is a priority for me and performing in the festival is part of my contribution towards that goal.’

Watch Professor Cheetham's performance now