Cormach Evans, 26, is an Aboriginal Men's Health Worker and spends his days providing services that meet the specific needs of Indigenous men in the Geelong community. Throughout his career, he has experienced first hand, the need to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people and the necessary funding needed for Indigenous Men's health services.
The life expectancy of Indigenous men is up to 17 years lower than non-Indigenous men, with Indigenous men living up to their mere 60s on average. This is a gap that Cormach is devoted to closing. He is also concerned about the high rates of Indigenous people contracting preventable illnesses like heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes, as well as the large number of Aboriginal people fighting mental illness.
In order to raise awareness of these distressing realities, come May 2017, Cormach will be paddling from coastal Victoria to St Kilda beach on a prone paddle board. He has started up a Go Fund Me campaign, with the hope of raising $10, 000 which will go towards running programs on mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and chronic disease his organisation, the Wathaurong Health Service in Geelong and eventually, to develop them into national programs.
"I’m a big believer in bringing culture into every program I run as it is such a massive part of healing for our people," he told NITV. "Finding funding for Men’s health has been quiet difficult and if if it means doing something challenging that will inspire my people, but also assist with closing the gap and improving their health and wellbeing, then I’m going to do it - no questions asked."
In his experience, Cormach has found that transgenerational transmission of trauma is a defining factor of health problems in Indigenous communities.
"Sadly the past has an influence and has created transgenerational transmission of trauma, grief and loss that has been passed down through generations from colonisation, the Stolen Generation and all the pain and suffering when these events occurred.
"So we see people turn to drugs and alcohol and other methods to 'mask the pain'. However this then has a 'ripple affect' - so to speak - influencing mental health issues associated with trauma, grief and loss, which then comes into play again with it's affect on Indigenous bodies. Still today, we have not adapted to introduced substances such as sugar, alcohol, drugs and tobacco, which leads to chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, depression and cancer and the list goes on."
Cormach himself, has been survivor of the health issues that face so many Aboriginal men.
"About three or four years ago, I felt the full front of depression," he says. "For a long time I tried sucking it up and did what most men would do and said, “she’ll be right”. I then turned to drugs and alcohol to mask the pain, but didn’t realise it was making everything harder and a lot worse to deal with. I was very lucky to have a very amazing friend who helped me seek help and talk about what was going on.
"My time growing up I faced a lot of challenges and it's fair to say I did it pretty tough, however am truly lucky to have such amazing family, friends."
"Every day my desire to improve the health and wellbeing of my people, and my determination to make change, grows even stronger."
From that point, Cormach says he knew he wanted to help others for the rest of his life.
"After about a year of volunteering my spare time, a job opportunity came up at Wathaurong as a Men’s Health Worker. I took that by the horns and I am loving every day. Every day my desire to improve the health and wellbeing of my people, and my determination to make change, grows even stronger. This is my passion."
Cormach grew up on Wathaurong country and has been a 'water baby' all his life. Although he has only been paddling for about six months, he has surfed from a very young age, competing in national surfing titles like the Australian Indigenous Surfing Titles in Bells Beach and been given big sponsorship opportunities from Surfing Victoria and Strapper Surfboards.
"The ocean is a place where I don’t need to think about anything except that present moment."
"It’s such a beautiful feeling surfing, it’s my happy place. It’s a place where I feel the water washes away any bad thoughts or feeling and cleanses your soul," he says. "The ocean is a place where I don’t need to think about anything except that present moment."
Cormach has been training intensively with his good friend and water sportsman, Zeb Walsh, will join him on his paddle next year.
"The training for me at the moment involves swimming everyday 3-5 km, depending on how much time I have, as well as an hour in the gym for strength training. On the weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, consist of paddling of about 10km-25km each day and gym sessions as well."
So far, Cormach has raised $720 of his $10 K goal.
If you would like more information about Cormach's campaign, #PaddleForMensIndigenousHealth go to his website.