Family Background:
Born in Brisbane, Stephen is a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from South East Queensland.

Stephen was appointed Artistic Director of Bangarra in 1991 and has developed a signature body of works that have become milestones in Australian performing arts over the course of his 31 years in the role.


Stephen continues to reinvent First Peoples storytelling within Bangarra and through collaborations with other performing arts companies. He directed the Indigenous sections for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies and created a new dance work as part of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. Stephen has choreographed over 27 works for Bangarra. His most recent works include the Helpmann Award winning work Bennelong in 2017 and the work Dark Emu in 2018, choreographed together with former Bangarra dancers Daniel Riley and Yolande Brown, and which went on to become one of the most successful productions in the history of Bangarra.


Stephen’s first full-length film SPEAR premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before screening at various arts festivals around Australia in early 2016. He has also directed the chapter Sand in the feature film The Turning (2013) and choreographed the feature films Bran Nue Dae (2009) and The Sapphires (2011).


In 2015, Stephen was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts by the University of Technology Sydney. In 2016, he received both the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award and JC Williamson Award. In 2017, Stephen was honoured with the Australia Council Dance Award for significant contributions to the cultural and artistic fabric of the nation, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). Stephen was awarded the prestigious Red Ochre Award at Australia Council for the Arts’ 2022 First Nations Arts Awards. Also in 2022, Performing Arts Connections (PAC) Australia awarded Stephen the Wendy Blacklock Industry Legend Award to honour his role as an artist and cultural leader, establishing and nurturing contemporary Indigenous dance into a place of prominence across Australia.


Stephen stepped away from Bangarra at the end of 2022, after 31 years as Artistic Director. 

  • 1993 - Paris Opera Screen award, Grand Prix for Black River (Film)
  • 1997 - Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography
  • 2001 - Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work & Best Dance Work, Skin
  • 2002 - Helpmann Award for Best Choreography, Corroboree
  • 2002 - Matilda Award for Contribution to the Arts in Queensland
  • 2003 - Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award, Individual Award
  • 2004 - Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award, Indigenous Individual
  • 2008 - Deadly Award for Outstanding Achievement in Entertainment, Mathinna
  • 2009 - Helpmann Award for Best Choreography, Dance or Physical Theatre Production, Mathinna
  • 2010 - Australian Dance Award for Services to Dance
  • 2010 - Helpmann Award for Best Choreography in a Dance of Physical Theatre Production, Fire - A Retrospective
  • 2012 - NAIDOC Award for NAIDOC Artist of the Year
  • 2012 - Helpmann Award for Best Choreography, ID
  • 2016 - Helpmann Award, JC Williamson Award®
  • 2016 - NAIDOC Award, Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2017 - Australia Council Dance Award
  • 2018 - Helpmann Award for Best Choreography, Bennelong
  • 2018 - Helpmann Award for Best Dance Production, Bennelong
  • 2018 - Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work, Bennelong
  • 2022 - Red Ochre Award, Individual Award
  • 2022 - Wendy Blacklock Industry Legend Award, Individual Award