Born in Longreach, Queensland and raised in Rockhampton, Sue-Ann's people are from the Waka Waka tribe of South West Queensland. She took dance classes with the local Rockhampton Aboriginal community and then began classical ballet at the Rockhampton Academy of Dancing under Debra Parker, obtaining outstanding results in her Royal Academy of Dance examinations.
She joined the Queensland Young Dancers Company in 1982, touring Mackay, Ayr and Rockhampton with a mixed program of classical, jazz and contemporary dance. At fourteen Sue-Ann successfully auditioned for The Australian Ballet School in Melbourne, although she was too young to take up the position. In 1987 Sue-Ann attended the Victorian College of the Arts, enrolling in a Bachelor of Arts in their School of Dance. Sue-Ann then took up a career in finance with various government and commercial organisations.
After a 5-year break she was offered an apprenticeship with Bangarra Dance Theatre in 1992 which gave her an insight into traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait cultures. She travelled both nationally and internationally with the company. In 1993 Sue-Ann took on the role of the female lead in Praying Mantis Dreaming.