Stephen is a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation in 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 the Australian performing arts landscape.
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 Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening & Closing Ceremonies, and created a new dance work for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
He has choreographed dozens of works for Bangarra, which reflect the rich histories, cultures and stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.
Stephen directed the chapter Sand in the feature film The Turning (2013), and 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 2020, Stephen co-directed and choreographed the film Freeman.
Stephen was the 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.
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).