Songs for an Ancient Land

deborah cheetham ao with the aso and marryatville concert choir


Friday 23 November

6.00PM - 7.15PM

Grainger Studio, 91 Hindley Street, Adelaide


The songs of our ancient land resonate and surround us. This concert will celebrate the ancient and powerful languages of Kaurna, Barngarla, Boandik and Yorta Yorta people. 

Deborah Cheetham AO, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Marryatville High School Concert Choir will perform Prelude from Pecan Summer and Ancient Land Processional composed by Deborah Cheetham for the University of South Australia.

Join us for this powerful performance, followed by the inspirational Deborah Cheetham In-Conversation with Mark Waters, State Manager of Reconciliation SA.

Ancient Land Processional
The processional music played at the start of the University of South Australia Graduation Ceremony has been composed by Deborah Cheetham AO. The work is sung by the Ngarrindjeri Women’s Choir and the Marryatville Concert Choir, supported by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Buc. “From the beginning I wanted this processional to be a powerful reminder that knowledge has been passed for more than 2000 generations on the lands that the University now occupies. For that reason it was essential to include the traditional language groups from each of the campuses of the University of South Australia - Kaurna (Adelaide), Boandik (Mount Gambier) and Barngarla (Whyalla). Ancient Land Processional is music for ceremony and for celebration. I wanted this work to convey the importance and excitement of one of life’s great rites of passage – the graduation ceremony"



Deborah Cheetham, Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer and educator has been a leader and pioneer in the Australian arts landscape for more than 25 years. 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". In 2009, Deborah established Short Black Opera as a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous singers. The following year she produced the premiere of her first opera Pecan Summer. This landmark work was Australia’s first Indigenous opera and has been a vehicle for the development of a new generation of Indigenous opera singers. Pecan Summer has now been performed in Mooroopna, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide and in 2016 became the first Indigenous opera to be presented at the Sydney Opera House. In March 2015 she was inducted onto the Honour Roll of Women in Victoria and in April 2018 received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia for her pioneering work and achievements in music. In October 2018 Ms Cheetham will premiere her latest work Eumeralla, a War Requiem for Peace in the ancient language of the Gunditjmara at the Port Fairy Spring Festival.


Mark waters

As the State Manager for Reconciliation SA since 2010, Mark's focus has been in helping to shape a framework and a Strategic Plan with the Reconciliation SA Board and gradually implementing each of its Strategic Priority Areas. Mark trained as a social worker and spent years working in front line youth work, youth health work, mental health services, employment services, drug/alcohol community work and management. 



Conductor: David Sharp

Established in 1936, the internationally acclaimed Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is South Australia’s largest performing arts organisation. Today the ASO plays a major role in Adelaide’s cultural and economic vibrancy, and enriches the community through a diverse program of world-class performances to more than 90,000 concert goers each season. The ASO also provides the orchestral support for the State Opera of South Australia and performances by The Australian Ballet and Opera Australia, and is the most prolific contributor to the Adelaide Festival. The Ancient Land Processional orchestral music was performed by the ASO, conducted by Nicholas Buc and recorded in Adelaide’s ABC studios.


Marryatville high school concert choir

Director:  Aldis Sils
Accompanist:  Jason Hammond

For over 40 years Marryatville High School is well known for excellence in music education with its Special Interest Music Centre offering an award winning program of musical study including high level instrumental and vocal ensembles in a variety of styles. The fundamental focus on singing in Marryatville’s music program enables the students to achieve high levels of personal musicianship in their chosen focus areas. 

The Concert Choir has achieved many accolades over the years in competitions and performances both nationally and internationally.  It has recently been involved with recordings for Adelaide’s “Voices of Christmas” event, Opera Australia’s regional tours, and backing vocals for 80’s group “Foreigner”.

UniSA reconciliation action plan

At its core, the Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is student-centric. Supporting Aboriginal students to achieve success which is centred on providing a culturally safe and appropriate environment, one in which students can see tangible evidence of the University’s commitment to a two-way relationship with Aboriginal People. The breadth of deliverables, from advancing student outcomes, building cultural awareness amongst staff and students, and enhancing Aboriginal research and its impact, speak to the whole of university approach that is fundamental to providing a culturally safe space in which our students can succeed.  

UniSA is committed to strengthening our position as the University of Choice for Aboriginal People by creating an environment where both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people can learn, teach, research and engage with each other in a place that acknowledges, respects and learns from Aboriginal People and their unique knowledges. We understand that this requires an authentic two-way approach to engagement and relationships with Aboriginal People and organisations.









Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

 While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy - valuing our diversity - and building our future.

The copying and reproduction of any transcripts within the Hawke Centre public program is strictly forbidden without prior arrangements.








While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.