The Young Kabbarli is based on an episode in the life of the Irish-Australian welfare worker and anthropologist Daisy Bates. Bates was given the affectionate name 'Kabbarli', meaning 'grandmotherly person'.
The Young Kabbarli, premiered at Hobart's Festival of Contemporary Opera and Music in 1965. In 1972 it was presented by the Intimate Opera Group in the unlikely setting of the Olde King’s Music Hall theatre-restaurant as part of the Adelaide Festival and, soon after, in a series of Melbourne concerts celebrating Sutherland’s 75th birthday. It was the first opera ever recorded in Australia.
In 1973, it was recorded at Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia. It was the first Australian opera recorded in Australia. Singers were Genty Stevens, Dean Patterson, Carol Kohler, John McKenzie and David Gulpilil, and conducted by Patrick Thomas.