• Yorta Yorta Paddle boarder set to travel 170km to raise awareness for Aboriginal health programs. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
With just a board in his hand and salty water on his face, Yorta Yorta man, Cormach Evans will paddle the Wadawurrung coastline to raise awareness for Aboriginal health.
By
Laura Morelli

20 Sep 2017 - 10:05 AM  UPDATED 20 Sep 2017 - 2:09 PM

Together with Australian World Champion Paddle Boarder and Adventurer, Zeb Walsh, they will travel more than 170km in total. Kicking off from Airey’s Inlet to St Kilda Beach, the paddling pair aims to raise money and awareness for Aboriginal health and wellbeing programs within the Geelong, Surfcoast region.

This enduring three to four-day adventure will see the young men battling the most southern open oceans of Victoria - which are known to be some of the coldest and most dangerous waters of the country’s coastline.

Weaving in and out of the busy shipping channel of Port Philip Bay on just 14 foot prone paddleboards, Cormach says he’s taking a risk to raise national awareness about the continuing effects of First Colonisation and Stolen Generation.

“The impacts of transgenerational grief, loss and trauma on Aboriginal People are all too familiar for our people – I want to educate the wider Australian community whilst creating positive change with our young people.”

A report issued by the United Nations revealed Indigenous Australians’ have the largest life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of any Indigenous population in the world.

The former Aboriginal Men’s Health Practitioner and Stronger Families Case Manager at Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-Op in Geelong aims to improve Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing nationally whilst creating a culture of achieving only the greatest outcomes for Aboriginal Young People within his community.

During his extensive work with Aboriginal youth, he realised there were no programs for Indigenous youth to access or programs to thrive in so he came up with a plan to best solve the issue.

"I caught up with a few kids to brainstorm ideas - I think it's really important to let the kids have a say and use their voice to tell us what they want."

"We want the kids to tell us their story and spread their message about what they want to see happen so we can ensure their future is bright."  

As a result of working with local youth and hearing their wants and needs, earlier this year he founded Strong Brother Strong Sister, an organisation in Geelong which provides culturally appropriate spaces and programs for Aboriginal Youth. This year the funds raised from the paddle will go towards mentoring programs with youth at risk or in care.

Strong Brother Strong Sister is all about creating culturally safe and appropriate spaces for our Young people to access and thrive within. We simply show our young people the amazing talents thriving within themselves and guide, mentor and empower them to achieve only the greatest outcomes.”

By being a positive Aboriginal role model, Cormach is proving to youth that everyone can achieve their dreams. Strong Brother Strong Sister focuses on giving youth and the community a voice. 

"We want the kids to tell us their story and spread their message about what they want to see happen so we can ensure their future is bright."  

In preparation for the big day, Cormach has asked kids from the Koori Youth Group to decorate his board with their special messages and future aspirations.

"Our kids feel they're constantly trying to prove themselves to non-Aboriginal people, the government. They want to prove to the wider community that they have talent and big hopes so they've written things about Aboriginal pride and Marriage equality on my board."

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Passionate about Indigenous Health, Cormach Evans is paddling over 170 kms to raise money and awareness of men's services in the sector.

Cormach's journey wasn't always smooth sailing. The 27-year-old's father was a member of the Stolen Generation and the implications had an impact.

"We didn't have a connection to a mob or culture because we didn't know about our family so growing up as an Aboriginal kid was confusing. It was confronting dealing with racism on a daily basis because of your skin colour or because you identified as Aboriginal." 

The Paddle for Aboriginal Health will kick off on 6 October at Urquhart’s Bluff Beach, Great Ocean Road, VIC, with a ceremony from the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners at sunrise and the duo will be met at the finish line in St Kilda Beach on 9 October by Boon Wurrung Traditional Owners.

This isn't the first time the paddling daredevils took on the ocean. In 2016 they travelled the length of the Torres Strait in a traditional dugout canoe they created with the community as part of Red Bull TV’s Adventures Of The Century series. 

Looking to the future, Cormach says next he wants to visit Darwin and the local Elders to get out of the cold water and into the warm water. 

"Having strangers welcome us with open arms after enduring so much trauma was really heartwarming. There would have been over 100 people there giving us their blessing and that's so beautiful. It's sad to come back home where our culture has been forgotten about so it's important to recognise the people that are trying to keep culture strong and continue to grow.