Stephen is a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from South East Queensland. In 1991, Stephen was appointed Artistic Director of Bangarra and has developed a signature body of works that have become milestones in Australian performing arts.
Stephen continues to reinvent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling within Bangarra and through collaborations with other performing arts companies. He notably directed the Indigenous sections for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies and created a new dance work for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
He has choreographed over 25 works for Bangarra, including Patyegarang for Bangarra’s 25th anniversary in 2014, and Nyapanyapa, as part of the OUR land people stories triple bill in 2016. In 2018, together with former Bangarra dancers Daniel Riley, Yolande Brown and the Bangarra ensemble, Stephen choreographed the critically acclaimed work Dark Emu. Inspired by Bruce Pascoe’s book of the same name, it became the most successful production in the history of Bangarra, building on the success of his Helpmann Award-winning work Bennelong in 2017.
Stephen directed the chapter Sand in the feature film The Turning (2013) and is Artistic Associate for Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Secret River, which had its world premiere as part of Sydney Festival in 2013 and toured to Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain this year. He also choreographed the feature films Bran Nue Dae (2009) and The Sapphires (2011). His first full-length film SPEAR premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before screening at various arts festivals around Australia in early 2016.
In 2015, Stephen was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts by the University of Technology Sydney. In 2016, he received both the 2016 NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award and JC Williamson Award and 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).