A voice to be heard
MARY MacKillop Catholic Regional College students were treated to an inspiring speech and the incredible operatic vocals of Deborah Cheetham recently.
Mrs Cheetham, AO, is a world renowned Indigenous Australian soprano, actor, composer and educator who has travelled the world to perform, including France, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Switzerland and Germany.
In 2010, Mrs Cheetham performed and directed her own opera Pecan Summer with her company Short Black Opera. The show has gone on to be perhaps the most acclaimed indigenous opera in history, performing at the Sydney Opera House later this year.
In 2014, Mrs Cheetham was awarded the 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”
Aside from her artistic achievements, Mrs Cheetham has been an outspoken advocate for indigenous rights.
Comprised of senior student leaders, the college’s Student Mission Team has invited a series of guest speakers to present speeches on issues relevant to the good will of the school.
So far guest speakers have discussed asylum seekers and environmental stewardship.
Mrs Cheetham said when she was invited to speak, she did not plan what she was going to discuss as new inequalities for indigenous Australians are frequently brought up in the media.
“The plight of indigenous Australians means we have to be ready to respond to these events all the time instead of moving forward,” Mrs Cheetham said, referring to the recent public belittlement of AFL player Adam Goodes.
A member of the Stolen Generation, Mrs Cheetham spoke about the importance of recognising Australia’s history not just in terms of colonisation, but in terms of its rich and ancient past.
“Australia’s history is an asset we should be sharing with the whole world,” she said.
“With 70,000 years of civilisation, we have the longest continual culture in the world.”
Mrs Cheetham urged students to tune into National Indigenous Television (NITV) to gain a better understanding of “seeing television through the lens of an indigenous person.”
“It has never been easier to tune in and engage with our culture,” she said.
“Fear incarcerates so many indigenous people. We as a nation have been socially engineered to be young forever because nobody is brave enough to grow up.”
Mrs Cheetham later performed an indigenous operatic piece to a standing ovation from awestruck students, teachers and guests before answering students’ questions in class.
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