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Opera singer and health researcher: The double life of Caitlin Easton

Woman standing in front of tree
Caitlin Easton recently performed at the Sydney Opera House.
It’s a busy time for USQ Master of Science (Research) student and proud Bundjalung woman Caitlin Easton.

Not only is she hard at work as a research assistant and student exploring community perceptions of Indigenous youth suicide in St George in Western Queensland, but she has recently returned from a performance of Indigenous opera Pecan Summer at the Sydney Opera House.

Mrs Easton was cast as ‘Daughter’ in the opera, written by Deborah Cheetham, during its first run six years ago. She has returned to the role numerous times, including its most recent performance at the country’s most recognisable performing arts centre.

Pecan Summer is based on the events surrounding the walk-off from Cummeragunja mission in 1939 in protest of the harsh conditions on the mission.

Mrs Easton said the Sydney Opera House performance fulfilled a childhood dream.

“It was really lovely walking out onto the concert hall stage. All of the professional artists told me that the excitement never gets old for them either – it doesn't matter if it's their first time or their 400th time, you still have this overwhelming ‘wow’ moment,” she said.

“Given the subject matter, telling this story at the Sydney Opera House was poignant. The Opera flashes forward and back between the walk off and current day and in both time scenes talk about all these policies, about how children were taken in the Stolen Generation.

“It a significant story and an emotionally exhausting experience for the cast and audience.”

Mrs Easton said her involvement in the opera complemented her research work.

“I find that they go hand in hand really well. The opera deals with some pretty heavy subjects, as does the specific field of science that I work in,” she said.

“There is little data on what the community feels influences the rates of suicide in youth. I’m sitting down with the community members, elders, and other stakeholders such as police to get their thoughts.

“I’m also looking at what happens in the community when Indigenous youth suicide occurs, and gauging what is in place to support families and the community, as well as available preventative services.

“These are all stories that should and must be told.”