Deborah Cheetham AO

Deborah is a world-renowned Aboriginal opera singer, composer, playwright and creator of Australia's first Aboriginal opera.

Honour Roll

She has a passionate commitment to improving access to careers in the arts for young Aboriginal Australians. A Yorta Yorta woman, Deborah is a soprano, composer, playwright, producer, director and educator who has firmly established her place as an artist in great demand. Since her international debut in 1997, Deborah has forged a successful career performing in theatres and concert halls across Europe, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, and at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2003 Rugby World Cup.

In April 2007, she was awarded a prestigious two-year Fellowship from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, allowing her to create Australia's first Aboriginal opera, Pecan Summer. The success of Pecan Summer led Deborah to establish the Short Black Opera Company, a national not-for-profit organisation devoted to the development of Aboriginal opera singers.

Deborah is currently the Associate Dean (Indigenous) at the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne. She served as the Head of the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development from 2011 to 2014. Under her leadership, the Wilin Centre advanced its reputation for providing Aboriginal artists with pathways to a future in the visual and performing arts.

In 2010, Deborah was a finalist for the Australian of the Year in Victoria. She was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2014 for her distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, to the development of Aboriginal artists and to innovation in performance.