Deborah is a descendant of Wakaid Clan, Badu Island, the Meriam people of Murray Island, and also proud of her Scottish heritage. Born in Brisbane, her totems are Beizam (the shark) and the moth.
At age five, Deborah began dance classes at the Pamela Le Ray School of Dance, where she studied Tap, Modern, Jazz and Ballet (RAD), but she was also taught traditional dance by her mother, and later trained at The Actors Conservatory.
Deborah joined Bangarra in 2003 and has performed in the company’s extensive repertoire, dancing around Australia and the world in works such as Fire – A Retrospective, of earth & sky, Terrain, Blak and Kinship.
Other highlights for Deborah include Bangarra’s return to country experiences including Mer Island and Yirrkala, traveling overseas and performing in Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre and Theatre du Chatelet in Paris with an Australian Ballet co-production.
She has many screen credits to her name, acting in Luck of the Draw (2000) at the Queensland Performing Arts Complex, a World Around Us special, Bush Survival (2002), Bran Nue Dae (2010) and Dan Sultan’s Under my Skin music video (2013).
In 2013 Deborah won the Helpmann Award for Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production for Terrain and was selected by Arts QLD as a Culture Champion for her contribution to the QLD arts and culture sector. She was previous nominated for a Helpmann Award in 2010, as well as a Deadly Award nomination for Dancer of the Year in 2011. In 2014, Deborah was also nominated for an Australian Dance Award for Most Outstanding Female Dancer for Brolga.
Deborah made her choreographic and directorial debut in 2013, creating a short dance film titled dive for Bangarra’s season of Dance Clan 3, as part of the inaugural Corroboree Sydney.
In 2014 Deborah performed Kinship with Bangarra at Holland Dance Festival and moth in a special performance at the festival Gala at The Hague, before taking a year long sabbatical away from dance. During this time she appeared in campaigns for national fashion brands Saba and Camilla alongside other projects.
In 2015, Deborah created I.B.I.S as part of the lore double bill, jointly with fellow senior dancer Waangenga Blanco. This work was inspired by her community in the Torres Strait Island and was praised by both critics and audiences.
Her inspiration comes from her family, especially her parents who come from opposite ends of the world, with cultural backgrounds that enrich her and teach her to celebrate her heritage.