Prof. Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO FAHA (Yorta Yorta/Yuin) soprano and composer is a respected human rights advocate and recognised thought leader on the importance of cultural authority in the Art Music space. Throughout a long and distinguished career Deborah has championed the voice and visibility of classically trained Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island musicians through her achievements a composer, performer and artistic director of the Australia’s national First Nations Opera Company Short Black Opera (est. 2009) and Director of Dhungala Children’s Choir (est. 2008).
In 2019 Cheetham Fraillon established the One Day in January project designed to develop and nurture Indigenous orchestral musicians. From this emerged Ensemble Dutala, Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Chamber Ensemble which has led to the increased visibility and status of First Nations orchestral musicians in Australia.
As a composer Cheetham Fraillon’s list of commissions for major ensembles and companies include works for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Australian String Quartet, West Australian Symphony Orchestra String Quartet, Rubiks Collective, Melbourne Ensemble, The ABC, The Sydney Philharmonia, Plexus Collective, Flinders Quartet Goldner Quartet, The Australian Ballet, Victorian Opera, The MPavilion Project, Chineke (UK) and Hawai’i Symphony.
Cheetham Fraillon’s landmark compositions include Australia’s first Indigenous opera Pecan Summer (2010), Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace (2018) and the ongoing multi layered, multi lingual chamber music series Woven Song (2018).
Deborah Cheetham Fraillon’s career and achievements have been celebrated with a number of significant awards and commendations including: the Don Banks Music Award (2023), Queensland Government – Australian Women in Music Lifetime Achievement Awards (2022), the JC Williamson Lifetime Achievement Award (2021) and the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award for service to music; Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia (2018). In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Deborah was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, to the development of Indigenous artists, and to innovation in performance and in 2022 she was appointed as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (FAHA)
In 2021 Deborah Cheetham Fraillon began a five year appointment as MSO First Nations Creative Chair and 2023 was appointed the inaugural Elizabeth Todd Chair of Vocal Studies at The Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the University of Sydney.