Cormach Evans is a Yorta Yorta man who grew up on Wadawurrung Country and currently lives on Larrakia Country. He is the managing director and founder of both Ngarrimili and Strong Brother Strong Sister (SBSS), and just recently founded the Strong Brother Strong Sister Foundation (SBSSF).
We yarned with Cormach in the lead up to National Reconciliation Week 2022 for our 5 Changemakers, 5 Days campaign. Questions and answers may have been edited for length and clarity.
Cormach: My name is Cormach Evans. I’m a Yorta Yorta man, grew up on Wadawurrung Country and currently living on beautiful Larrakia Country. I have two beautiful children and an incredible partner who inspire me every day to make change and be brave. I want to ensure my children have strong, healthy futures. But also their friends and other community members too because children and young people really are the future.
At the moment I run three organisations. One is called Ngarrimili, which is a Wadawurrung word that means to dance. The work we do is grounded in First Nations people being innovators and entrepreneurs for 80,000+ years.
The other – SBSS – is a First Nations, youth-led and operated organisation. Down on Wadawurrung Country, all our staff are First Nations young people and they lead and determine all the programs that we run. I started that when I was a young person and obviously now I’m not classified as a young person, which I’m told a lot. But being able to support the next generation is what I’m most passionate about. And just recently founded SBSSF – a DGR1 status charity that supports First Nations young people with social, emotional, health and wellbeing support.
I also love the ocean and being outdoors and spending time with my family and beautiful partner Coco.
C: Ngarrimili exists to fill in the gaps of the service system but also to fast track opportunities for First Nations businesses, creatives and not-for-profits. The intention is to achieve economic prosperity and generational wealth because with generational wealth comes generational change.
We wanted to create an organisation that listens to and walks alongside the people we work with. All of our programs are personal and tailored to each individual – their needs in terms of the business world but also personal life as well. We provide many different services, from linking participants with First Nations business leaders for mentoring, to marketing support and legal advice.
We’ve got an incredible team of First Nations business leaders and contractors who we engage and pay to be able to support other First Nations businesses to grow. So in many ways we’re supporting the First Nations economy to grow quite rapidly – through supporting up-and-coming businesses and established entrepreneurs as well.
SBSS works in similar ways. We support First Nations children and young people from ages four up to 25 or 30-years-old with personally tailored, one-on-one mentoring. We have a strong focus on supporting kids that are in out-of-home care, the youth justice system or at risk of suicide. We sit down with each young person and co-create a plan based on their needs and what’s going on in their lives. We also want to find out what brings them joy and where their passions lie, and bring those things into their plans as well. It might be art, or it might be surfing.
At the same time we work to strengthen their connection to culture through workshops and spending time on their Country. We also help young people navigate the healthcare system and keep on top of their health assessments and wellbeing appointments. And one of our key programs is a suicide prevention program, where community or family members can refer in any individual that may be at risk of suicide. We link individuals to services, and cover costs of psychologists, counsellors and mental health professionals.
And we created SBSSF as a stepping stone to the growth and opportunities for SBSS and the young people we work with. Looking at the gaps in services, opportunities and everything else to create excellent opportunities and pathways.
C: I want First Nations young people to have equal opportunities and healthy futures. With SBSS, we want just to exist as a space for young people and community to come together. We want kids not being removed from home and not ending up in youth justice because of racist policies and discrimination. I want to ensure SBSS has created movement and voice for all our young people, but also our future young people and their children to just enjoy life without the effects and implications of colonisation, racism and discrimination.
At Ngarrimili we want to create a generation of First Nations entrepreneurs, and philanthropists too. So then we have Blackfullas investing in Blackfullas. Hopefully in a few years time Ngarrimili won’t need to exist because we’ve created generational wealth within the First Nations community. Really I want to see millionaires and billionaires who are Blackfullas who can then support other mob to achieve their dreams and goals.
C: I've been really fortunate to be surrounded by staunch women and matriarchs all my life. So for me, being brave is about stepping outside of comfort zones, being able to back yourself and say “I can do it.”
I think bravery is instilled in all of us as First Nations people. It’s been passed down through so many generations and through our matriarchs too. And it’s about being able to be yourself and back yourself. That’s the truest form of bravery in my eyes.
C: Anyone can support the Black economy – from buying presents for friends and family, to everyday shopping like skincare, food and even toilet paper. If you think of something you buy in your everyday life, you can replace that with products from First Nations businesses. So replace some of your shopping items with First Nations business products.
Also, you can donate to Ngarrimili to directly support the growth of the First Nations economy. 100 per cent of donations goes towards supporting First Nations businesses with personally tailored supports and workshops.