Cormach Evans is a pretty busy guy – but not too busy to reach out to an Illawarra teenager in need.
When a CareSouth psychologist contacted the professional surfer, Aboriginal men’s health worker and founder of the successful Strong Brother, Strong Sister program recently – he immediately responded.
As well as offering advice, Mr Evans wrote a letter to the young boy in foster care – giving him a much-needed boost during a difficult time.
He also made time to travel to the Illawarra last week to motivate hundreds of CareSouth workers at the community service organisation’s Ignite & Inspire conference.
And his story is certainly inspiring. The 27-year-old has overcome his own battles with addiction, mental illness and trans-generational trauma to help other indigenous people do the same.
‘’My journey has been a really rough trot – growing up I was the only Aboriginal kid in school and faced racism and discrimination on a daily basis,’’ he said.
‘’My father was a member of the stolen generation and to this day I too feel that loss of identity from my own culture, my own history.
‘’I never wanted to go down the path of drugs and alcohol. I’d promised my mum I wouldn’t do the same thing my father had done to mask his pain, but I did.’’
However a visit to a sacred spot at one of his lowest points led to a ‘’light-bulb moment’’ that helped him change his life around. Now through his role as a health worker and his youth mentorship program based in Geelong, he’s putting others on a better path.
At the conference, he told Illawarra caseworkers and health professionals how important cultural restoration was to help address the specific needs of indigenous kids in their care.
‘’The aim of Strong Brother, Strong Sister is to provide young Aboriginal people with a culturally appropriate safe place, where we can guide and empower them to achieve what they want to achieve,’’ he said, ‘’where we can support them to improve their health and well-being and make them aware of where they come from.’’
A CareSouth spokeswoman said while just 5.2 per cent of Australian youth are Aboriginal – 37.5 per cent of kids in out-of-home care are indigenous. Early intervention programs were key to addressing this imbalance.
Meantime Mr Evans, a proud Yorta Yorta man, is also raising awareness – and funds – to help close the gap in indigenous health outcomes through his Paddle for Men’s health initiative.
His attempt, along with world champion paddle boarder Zeb Walsh, to paddle more than 170km along the Victorian coastline got off to a rocky start this month after he dislocated his shoulder, but he won’t give up.
‘’I’ll start again once my shoulder’s mended,’’ he said. ‘’It’s so vital to raise awareness as there’s such a gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men. The rates of teen pregnancy, suicide and incarceration are also higher in indigenous communities.’’