When Yorta Yorta woman, Deborah Cheetham attends UniSA’s graduation ceremony today to receive her Honorary Doctorate, it will be one of her own compositions playing as processional music at the ceremony.
Commissioned to lead the composition of a special piece of music to be used at all UniSA graduations, Cheetham’s, Ancient Lands processional, will be heard for the first time at April graduations, the first ceremony to be held in the University’s new Pridham Hall in Hindley Street.
UniSA Vice Chancellor, Professor David Lloyd says the stirring and powerful piece reflects the University’s ongoing commitment to Aboriginal recognition and its founding remit to advance Aboriginal equity.
“We are delighted to be able to incorporate this wonderful composition, from a truly remarkable and talented Aboriginal woman, in our graduation ceremonies today and to recognise Deborah’s enormous contribution to Australian culture,” Prof Lloyd says.
“Deborah has been a pioneer in the Australian arts landscape, has mentored many aspiring artists and opened up significant pathways for young Aboriginal people and children to build careers in the arts and experience the joy and empowerment of performing.
“Not only an accomplished opera singer, she has also developed and staged landmark musical works including Pecan Summer, the first opera written by and Aboriginal Australian for an Aboriginal cast.
“She is an innovator in the arts, and has brought together her considerable talents as a writer, performer and entrepreneur to lead success through ventures such as the Short Black Opera Pty Ltd.
“We are delighted to showcase her work as part of our graduations and to welcome her to the University of South Australia community.”
In 2000 Cheetham was commissioned to write and perform an original composition, Dali Mana Gamarada, which she performed as the welcome to country at the Sydney Olympics.
In 2007 she was awarded a prestigious two-year fellowship from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, giving her the time and opportunity to complete Pecan Summer. The opera has had three seasons in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.
Cheetham was appointed as an officer of the Order of Australia in 214 for her distinguished service to the performing arts in 2014.
She will receive her honorary doctorate from UniSA on Monday April 9 at the 3 pm graduations ceremony, Pridham Hall Hall, City West campus.
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