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Photo: Wayne Quilliam


Deborah Cheetham, Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer and artistic director, has been a leader and pioneer in the Australian arts landscape for more than 25 years. In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Cheetham was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

Deborah Cheetham’s list of commissions for major Australian ensembles including works for the Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and West Australian Symphony orchestras, the Australian String Quartet, Rubiks Collective, The Sydney Philharmonia, Plexus Collective, the Flinders Quartet and the Goldner Quartet.

Awards and acknowledgements include; Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award for service to music in Australia, the Merlyn Myer Prize for Composition, induction onto the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll and Women’s Honour Roll of Victoria, Melbourne Recital Centre Life Time Membership, 2019 Melbourne Prize for Music, Limelight Magazine’s Critics Choice Artist of the Year and The Helpmann JC Williamson award for life time service to the arts.

In 2020 Deborah Cheetham was the composer-in-residence for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and commenced her appointment at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University as Professor of Music practice. Also in 2020, inspired by the work of Chi-chi Nwanoku and Chineke!, Deborah established Ensemble Dutala, Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Chamber Ensemble. Ensemble

Dutala emerges from Short Black Opera’s One Day in January project, established in 2019 and is designed to increase the visibility and status of ATSI orchestral musicians in Australia.

In 2021 Deborah Cheetham began a five-year appointment as First Nations Chair of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.