Professor Deborah Cheetham AO receives 2020 JC Williamson Award

Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance, Professor of Practice, Deborah Cheetham AO. Photo credit: Wayne Quillam.

Professor of Practice at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance, Deborah Cheetham AO, has been awarded the 2020 JC Williamson Award. This award, presented by Live Performance Australia at the Melbourne Recital Centre on 5 May 2021, is in recognition of an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the Australian live entertainment and performing arts industry.

The award was presented by Live Performance Australia Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson, who, in presenting Professor Cheetham this award said Professor Cheetham AO was a “true luminary” of the live performance industry, who has “inspired million of Australians with [her] dedication to the development of new generations of diverse artists and creators”.

Professor Cheetham AO has been recently recognised for her outstanding contributions to the music industry, signified by her appointment as First Nations Creative Chair of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Alongside her work at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance  at Monash University, Professor Cheetham AO has founded the not-for-profit opera company Short Black Opera, the Dhungala Children’s Choir and recently, in 2020, she established Ensemble Dutala; the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chamber orchestra.

Upon receipt of this award, Professor Cheetham AO said: “I am deeply honoured to receive this award. The JC Williamson tour of 1965 brought home to Australia the greatest soprano the world has ever known and in doing so began the process of reshaping the modern Arts landscape in this country. Four decades later Joan Sutherland received this award in 2005 after a lifetime of devotion to her craft. The influence of Dame Joan’s career and work ethic on my own endeavours cannot be overstated. To be counted amongst those who have previously received this award is truly humbling. My uncle, Jimmy Little AO, was a 2012 recipient of the JC Williamson Award. I can imagine his smile lighting up the sky knowing that the inheritance passed down to me from our Yorta Yorta elders and ancestors in receiving this recognition today.”

Read more about Professor of Practice, Deborah Cheetham AO.