And it’s one she says connects her to her Aboriginal heritage and helps Traditional Owners to embrace sustainable energy solutions.

Tegan Miller, an Aboriginal Energy Project Officer with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s (DELWP’s) Traditional Owner Renewable Energy Program (TOREP), has enjoyed a varied career.

She has worked as a teacher’s aide at a primary school in Dubbo, NSW, in hospitality on a working holiday in Canada and in marketing and advertising at radio stations Fox FM and Triple M in Melbourne, a role that saw her managing Victorian Government advertising campaigns including coronavirus (COVID-19), Deadly and Proud, and bushfire emergency messaging.

Making a positive change

‘In my previous role I had a huge responsibility delivering health and emergency communications, I loved the fast-paced nature of radio and connecting with people,’ she said.

‘I wanted to channel my energy to doing . something for the community that gave back to my ancestors, so I applied for my current role as a Project Officer in Aboriginal Energy.

‘I recognise that there is a huge gap here. Nothing has ever been done in the energy space for Aboriginal communities in Victoria, so I wanted to be part of the first program that’s dedicated to Traditional Owners and supports their self-determination in the renewable energy transition.’

This work is an important part of two major DELWP policy areas.

Under Victoria’s Climate Change Strategy, Victoria is transitioning to a renewable energy economy.

The Victorian Government has set a target of supplying 50% of Victoria’s electricity needs through renewable sources by 2030. As part of Victoria’s Climate Change Strategy, Victoria will become a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Aboriginal Energy is a key initiative that responds to DELWP’s Pupangarli Marnmarnepu ‘Owning Our Future’ Aboriginal Self-Determination Strategy 2020-25, DELWP’s 5-year roadmap to enable self-determination by honouring the rights and dignity of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians.

What is Pupangarli Marnmarnepu?

Pupangarli Marnmarnepu, which means 'owning our future' in Wadi Wadi and Mutti Mutti language, acknowledges that Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians have the right to make choices that best reflect them on their journey to self-determination and self-governance.

It will be embedded across DELWP’s service delivery and business practices to ensure Victoria's First Peoples have greater control over their own lives.

It’s a vision Tegan shares. She said TOREP supports the self-determining interests of Victoria’s 11 Registered Aboriginal Parties in their chosen renewable energy projects and plans. This includes:

  • installing renewable energy technology such as solar panels and batteries on property buildings
  • supporting Traditional Owners to prepare business cases and feasibility studies for future renewable energy projects
  • supporting Traditional Owners to prepare business cases for renewable energy projects or strategies to achieve carbon neutrality or reduced energy consumption more broadly.

‘We’re also empowering our DELWP Energy colleagues to understand and apply self-determination in their relevant work and how to meaningfully partner with Traditional Owners and improve services and practices that will inevitably support Traditional Owners to continue their self-determination interests and aspirations in renewable energy,’ she said.

‘And it’s been great. It’s really rewarding to support our project proponents along their journey.’

Challenges and rewards

The past year has been really challenging for Traditional Owners and their projects under TOREP as they have grappled with the many impacts of COVID-19 and supply chain issues.

‘But despite this it’s been so good to see what we have achieved together so far and that more projects are nearing completion’ she said.

Self-determination is vital in the renewable energy space, she said.

‘Traditional Owners are the original Custodians of the land. There is a lot of tangible and intangible cultural heritage on the lands that many large-scale renewable energy projects are proposed to be established’ Tegan said.

‘It’s really important for developers and the broader Energy sector to understand it’s crucial to engage with Traditional Owners early and ensure their projects aren’t being proposed on or near cultural heritage sites.

‘They need to understand the immediate and long term impacts these projects will have.’

Great results

Tegan said a recently completed project saw solar panels and battery storage systems installed at the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation office in Ballarat and its natural resource management depot at Ballan.

The Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change recently visited Wadawurrung’s project to celebrate completion of the first TOREP project.

‘This renewable energy technology will save them money and it aims to offset approximately 44 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, which is an amazing achievement for Wadawurrung and their community,’ Tegan said.

‘It reduces the impact on Country and the savings can be re-invested back into their community,’ Tegan said.

‘It’s really rewarding, especially seeing the projects come alive and how they’ll benefit Traditional Owner communities and First Nations people. I can’t wait to see more projects completed.’

Page last updated: 22/07/22