Born in Brisbane, Stephen is a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from SE Queensland.
In 1991 Stephen was appointed Artistic Director of the internationally acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre and has developed a signature body of works that have become milestones in Australian performing arts.
Stephen continues to reinvent Indigenous story-telling both within Bangarra and through collaborations with other performing arts companies most notably directing the Indigenous sections for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as Artistic Director of the 2004 Adelaide Festival of the Arts, writing and directing Bloodland with Wayne Blair and Kathy Balngayngu Marika for Sydney Theatre Company in association with Bangarra. Stephen made his directorial debut in 2012, directing the chapter Sand in the feature film The Turning and was Artistic Associate for Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Secret River as part of the Sydney Festival. He choreographed the feature films Bran Nue Dae (2009) and The Sapphires (2011).
In 2008 Stephen was named NSW Australian of the Year in recognition of his efforts to bring cultures together through the performing arts and his commitment to developing the next generation of Indigenous storytellers. In 2010 Stephen was honoured at the Australian Dance Awards for his Services to Dance and in 2012 received the NAIDOC Award for Artist of the Year.
In 2014 Stephen choreographed Bangarra’s acclaimed new work Patyegarang. This production celebrated Bangarra’s 25th anniversary in 2014 and was seen by almost 40,000 people nationally, marking Bangarra’s most successful season yet. That same year, Stephen led the company’s largest ever regional tour, performing in regional centres and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over nine weeks.
In 2015, Stephen was awarded a Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts by the University of Technology Sydney for his contribution to the arts and Indigenous culture. He curated Bangarra’s new work lore touring nationally in 2015. He also directed his first full-length film Spear(based on the production of the same name from the Skin double bill in 2000) which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before screening at various arts festivals around Australia in early 2016.
In 2016, Stephen celebrated his 25th year as Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre, receiving both the 2016 NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award and JC Williamson Award. 2016 also saw Stephen premiere Nyapanyapa, his 23rd work for Bangarra, as part of the OUR land people stories triple bill.
In 2017, Stephen was honoured with the Australia Council Dance Award for significant contributions to the cultural and artistic fabric of the nation.
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