Taking steps to heal Country

Heal Country! is the theme of NAIDOC Week 2021 from 4 to 11 July.

It’s a theme that focuses on recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate on equal basis in economic and social terms.

It is also about institutional, structural, and collaborative reform, which the Department of Transport is working to address through the Transport Portfolio Aboriginal Self-Determination Plan.

In Australia, the basic right of self-determination is something many people take for granted.
For Australia’s First Peoples, self-determination is about empowering Aboriginal communities to make decisions to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural development, based on their own values and way of life.

As a proud Aboriginal man, the Department of Transport’s Chaise Egan sees self-determination as a critical step in achieving equity for Aboriginal Victorians.

“Self-determination is all about acknowledging that Aboriginal people hold the expert knowledge of what’s best for them, their families and communities, so it’s our job to enable that knowledge to be embedded in our systems and practices moving forward,” he said.

“Prior to the 1967 Referendum, we didn’t have many human rights, let alone ‘self-determination’ rights.  

“I saw a ripper meme recently that went something like: ‘We’re not asking white people to feel guilty about the past. We just want their help dismantling the systems of oppression that were set up that still exclude us today.’ That nailed it, I thought.

“I think it’s important to shake up our systems to be more inclusive of Aboriginal people and our culture. We have been around and thrived for over 60,000 years. Surely we can learn a thing or two from that?”  

As DoT’s Senior Advisor of Aboriginal Programs, Chaise has played an important role in developing the landmark Transport Portfolio Aboriginal Self-Determination Plan.

Launched in November 2020, the plan outlines how the transport portfolio will work together to deliver outcomes with, and for, Aboriginal Victorians.

“The plan is our key policy driver to guide us on delivering against our Aboriginal Affairs commitments across the portfolio,” Chaise said.  

“The beauty of this plan, compared to past Aboriginal action plans, is we’re giving our Aboriginal stakeholders a chance to tell us what they want in it.   

“So many people have contributed to this and the support we have from our leaders – including the Ministers – it’s phenomenal!  There is still plenty more to be developed, too, with the Regional Chapters and Tailored Agreements with the Registered Aboriginal Parties. 

“My area of expertise is around Aboriginal employment (recruitment, retention and development) and creating a culturally safe and inclusive workplace for our Aboriginal staff.  I mostly chimed in on those areas within our little working group, which pulled it all together.”

Chaise’s primary role is advising the portfolio on how to boost Aboriginal staff numbers to achieve its two per cent employment target. 

He takes great satisfaction in creating positive career opportunities for his fellow Aboriginal people and supporting their success.

“I also advise on how to retain and develop staff and what programs and community networks they can tap into to assist with that,” he said.

Away from work, Chaise, a Mutti Mutti and Gunditjmara man, indulges his passion for music and sport, the latter coming from his father Phil, who played 125 games for Richmond from 1982 to 1990.

Chaise studied music at Victorian College of the Arts and plays lead guitar in heavy metal band Armoured Earth. 

“Playing music has always been my No.1 passion,” he said. “Unfortunately, when you write your own music, you don’t get paid for it. But I still love it and am in the process of teeing up some more Armoured Earth gigs soon.”