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Deborah Cheetham's momentous celebration

Written by Margot Taylor
on November 27, 2023

Ryman Healthcare’s Deborah Cheetham Retirement Village has been officially opened in style with village namesake and Yorta Yorta woman Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO performing alongside the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the black-tie event.

The Ocean Grove retirement living and aged care community was named after the Indigenous soprano, composer and educator in 2021.

Last Friday more than 200 people, including village residents, staff and dignitaries including fellow Ryman village namesake Raelene Boyle AM,MBE, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Managing Director Sophie Galaise, Federal Member for Corangamite Libby Coker MP, State Member for the Bellarine Alison Marchant MP, City of Greater Geelong Mayor Trent Sullivan and Victorian State Manager for the Aged and Community Care Providers Association Danielle Campbell-Manley attended the opening.


Wadawurrung woman Corrina Eccles performed a Welcome to Country.

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Wadawurrung woman Corrina Eccles.


Deborah Cheetham Fraillon was joined by MSO musicians to perform ‘Long Time Living Here’, an acknowledgement of Country performed in the language of her ancestors, the Yorta Yorta people.

“I am incredibly proud to be the namesake of the newest Ryman Healthcare location,” she said.

“The process of working together has been nothing but collaborative and supportive, and I applaud Ryman’s genuine commitment to understanding and celebrating First Nations people and culture.

“The Ryman team are second to none, they are a group of human beings who I would love to spend more time with when I have the opportunity because they are exceptional,” she said.

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Deborah said the grand opening was a celebration of family, with members of her immediate family, including her wife Nicolette Fraillon AM, Ryman family, MSO family and Short Black Opera family in attendance.

“If I have done anything to earn this title it’s because of the people who surround me and hold me up,” Deborah said.

Ryman Healthcare Australia CEO Cameron Holland said it was an honour to have Deborah Cheetham Fraillon join the pantheon of great Australians the company has named its villages after.

“Deborah is a voice of honesty, a builder of bridges, and an irreplaceable leader in the Indigenous community,” Cameron said.

“She took a leap of faith when she agreed to lend her name to this village, but what’s grown from there has been an authentic, collaborative partnership that’s created a village community that will serve Ocean Grove for decades to come.

“Every older Australian deserves the opportunity to live their life to the fullest and have care and support easily accessible if they need it down the track. With Deborah’s support, we’ve created a village that will provide exactly that.”

Following a three-course lunch a portrait of Deborah, painted by globally renowned Rye artist Vicki Sullivan was unveiled.

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(From left) Deborah Cheetham Fraillon, Vicki Sullivan and Raelene Boyle.


The stunning piece, entitled ‘Verismo’, was painted in 2017 at Number Sixteen Beach in Rye. It depicts Deborah in a Linda Britten gown comprising a black top and silk satin print skirt from the Tiwi Islands pointing toward Country.

Deborah said it was an “honour” to have been the subject of several portraits by Sullivan.

“It’s an incredible honour to be the subject of a portrait because it’s inviting you into somebody’s thought process and their philosophies.”

The piece was purchased by Ryman two years ago and will be proudly displayed in the village.

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Deborah Cheetham Fraillon with village manager Charisse Spence.


The momentous event concluded with a special interview between Nicolette and Deborah during which audience members were taken on a journey of Deborah’s life, followed by a Q&A.

Deborah Cheetham Retirement Village includes villas, assisted living in serviced apartments and an aged care centre as well as amenities including a bowling green, gym, hair and beauty salon, chapel, cinema, café, and indoor pool.


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