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Supporting Aboriginal Queer Communities to thrive

14 July 2023 at 9:00 am
Ed Krutsch
Shane Sturgiss is CEO of BlaQ, he is a proud Aboriginal man with family links to Gundungurra and Ngarigo people and a proud member of the LGBTQIA+SB community

Ed Krutsch | 14 July 2023 at 9:00 am


Supporting Aboriginal Queer Communities to thrive
14 July 2023 at 9:00 am


Married at an early age, Shane Sturgiss knows firsthand the feeling of not living in your own skin. Learning of his cultural belonging as a teenager, Shane has struggled with his cultural and sexual identity during his late teens and early 20’s. Growing up in a loving and supportive family environment, Shane wants to deliver this same level of care and nurturing to all community, who may not have the same positive opportunities that he was provided as a young man. Providing positive and affirming life experiences to community, his son, and grandchildren so that they may live their culture and identity is a focus for Shane.

Shane has worked across several Aboriginal services, including the Director of Operations at The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and sits on the board of Iyoria Belonging Estate, an Aboriginal Aged Care and Hospice facility. Shane is this weeks change maker, and you can read our interview with him below!


Describe your career trajectory and how you got to your current position.


As a younger man, I was married with stepchildren and a child of my own. I felt it was necessary to build a career and reach a position that would suit my family’s needs and therefore got into the Finance and Lending industry. After several years of working in this sector, I realised that it did not meet my social justice beliefs and values. I retrained as a financial counsellor and while working as a Financial Counsellor, I engaged in University study in Counselling and Community Services Management. Upon completion of my degree, I launched into a new career path as a counsellor and over the period of 5 years, had elevated my position within each of the organisations I worked for to management roles. Being connected with the Sydney Aboriginal Community, I became a board member of BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation and when the organisation grew to a point of offering paid positions, I applied for the CEO role.


What does this role mean to you?

My current role provides me with joy, purpose and is aligned with my values and beliefs. It is a pleasure to arrive at the office each day. In this role, I can grow and develop the service to meet community needs and witness how the services we offer change peoples’ lives for the better. Being able to be part of an individual’s journey is enlightening.


Take us through a typical day of work for you.

My day in the office usually starts at 8am. The first thing I do is check my calendar and emails before setting out and preparing papers for my days meetings. Meetings are always a mix of in person and virtual. Connecting with staff and seeing how their day looks and how I can help is important to ensure that BlaQ is offering the best possible connections to our community. My day is also spent taking a range of interviews, meetings with corporate and Government. These meetings can range from a catch up with an Elder to a Government Strategy meeting or interviewing on the Voice to Parliament. My office day ends between 5pm and 6pm. Depending on the night, there may also be some items attended to at home after dinner.


Pride Month has just passed, what does that mean for you and your work?

Pride month is a busy time for BlaQ. Being an LGBTQ+SB First Nations service provider, Pride month falls after Reconciliation week and before NAIDOC week, keeping us busy with activations for a steady period of a couple of months. It is a great opportunity for BlaQ to speak to the intersectionality of being BlaQ and Queer.


How can individuals and organisations better support Aboriginal Queer Communities and your organisation, BlaQ?

Being engaged with our service and community is the best way to support us. Become a member, volunteer at one of our activations, offer your skill set to assist in our deliverables or donate.


What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your career, and how did you overcome it?


A significant challenge was early on in my career, working for a large faith-based charity and being told that I could not talk about my personal life or my same sex partner in the workplace as it makes others feel uncomfortable. This for me was the first realisation of the ugliness of community and lack of acceptance. I resigned and navigated myself into a position where I can help other people in community that have these same experiences.


If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself as you first embarked on your career?


Take the time to know what you want to do. It is easy to fall from job to job. Take the time needed to understand what drives you and follow that path, that is the happier path.


How do you unwind after work?


Once I am home, I like to cook and as strange as it seems, clean. I know when my mental health is not being attended to by the state of my washing and ironing pile. Cleaning and cooking are my ways to express myself and do something for me.


What was the last thing you watched, read &; listened to?

It has been a long time since I read for enjoyment. It is so easy now to stream things online. Some of my favourite go-to TV series to just sit watch and unwind is Mom, Schitts Creek or The Golden Girls.


Ed Krutsch  |  @ProBonoNews

Ed Krutsch works part-time for Pro Bono Australia and is also an experienced youth organiser and advocate, he is currently the national director of the youth democracy organisation, Run For It.

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