Cheetham is a member of the Stolen Generations; she was taken from her mother when she was three weeks old and was raised by a white baptist family. Jimmy Little is her uncle. Cheetham graduated from the NSW Conservatorium of Music with a Bachelor of Music Education Degree.
In 1997 Cheetham wrote the autobiographical play White Baptist Abba Fan which tells of her experiences of coming to terms with her sexuality and racial identity whilst trying to reunite with her Aboriginal family. White Baptist Abba Fan has toured internationally.
As a soprano Cheetham has performed internationally in France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and New Zealand She sang the for the opening ceremony of the 2003 Rugby World Cup and performed at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics.
In October 2010, Cheetham's opera Pecan Summer, based on the Cummeragunja walk-off, opened in Mooroopna, near Shepparton. She wrote, composed and performed in the production by the Short Black Opera Company.
In the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours List, Cheetham 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".
- "Where did all the children go?", The Independent, 5 July 2000
- "Deborah Cheetham", Sunday Nights With John Cleary, 3 February 2001, Radio National
- "The sins of the fathers" by Michael Billington, The Guardian, 22 March 2000
- White Baptist Abba Fan, Radio National's Arts Talk
- Deborah Cheetham, Australia Council for the Arts
- "Singing for the world" by Frank Walker, The Age, 14 September 2003
- "Shepparton pulls together to face up to indigenous disadvantage" by Peter Jackson, Crikey, 13 August 2009
- Pecan Summer at Riverlinks
- "The Queen's Birthday 2014 Honours List". 8 June 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.