Megan Heap is the Native Title Officer for the Grampians region.
For her, International women’s day is about recognising the strong women in all our lives and what we can learn from them. Here is her story.
“Whatever you decide to do in life, make sure it makes you happy.”
Who is Megan Heap?
I am an Aboriginal woman who is passionate about family. My clan is Gunditjmara with historic ties to the Warrnambool area.
My bond with my Mum is very powerful; she is my role model and my rock. Mum represents my values and everything that I believe in. As a mother myself, I hope that the relationship I have with my own young daughter remains just as strong as the connection I have with my Mum.
I am also a strong advocate of diversity in the workplace. I feel that my colleagues are comfortable and happy in this environment, where DELWP sees inclusivity as a priority. I strongly feel that diversity aids personal learning and growth, understanding ourselves and achieving our fullest potential.
How would you explain your job to a stranger at a dinner party?
I am the Native Title Officer for the Grampians Region, responsible for Traditional Owner relationships involving land use activity assessments and agreements for works occurring on public land across the region.
I determine where native title exists on Crown land and ensure that any activities that occur on Crown land comply with the provisions of the Native Title Act and the Traditional Owner Settlement Act. I am the first point of contact for Native Title enquiries, and I’m the regional representative on the State team for Wotjobaluk people’s negotiations.
What was the journey like getting to this point in your career?
I started out wanting to work within the legal system but recognised an opportunity to slip my foot in the door at DELWP. I’ve held various roles now for more than 13 years.
Why do you think International Women’s Day is important?
For me it’s about recognising the strong and worthwhile women in our lives, although I don’t really need this day to remind me to tell my mum how central she is to my life or how much I admire her – I do this every day!
Ours is a powerful bond. I admire her for having fostered more than 30 children over the years and continuing to selflessly give of herself. She is always there for anyone who needs her, including me.
Do you have any advice for young women considering or currently pursuing a career in looking after the legal rights and interests of Traditional Owners?
My advice for young people starting out in their careers is to give every opportunity a go, always look for new experiences, and never give up or think that you’re not good enough.
The variability of this job is what gets me up in the morning – every day is different and it’s a constant adventure. I love being able to work with and build relationships with Traditional Owners on a professional level – I am always focussed on bettering the community within the confines of State and federal legislation.
Any highlights or interesting stories from your career?
One of the challenges I have faced is being questioned about my Aboriginality. People who identify themselves as Aboriginal range from dark-skinned, broad-nosed to blonde-haired, blue-eyed people. I am light-skinned and have faced challenges on Aboriginal identity because of stereotyping. In response, I say that Aboriginality is not defined by skin colour but by family beliefs, culture, histories and so much more. My dad is Aboriginal, a proud descendant of the Gunditjmara peoples. He grew up on the Framlingham mission on Girai Wurrung country, 25km north-east of Warrnambool.
Page last updated: 27/07/20