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First Nations’ approaches lead to prosperous futures

Inside Gambling December 2022 edition out now - Elders have eliminated barriers for us - Comach Evans

Cormach Evans, founder/managing director of Strong Brother, Strong Sister

Photo supplied by Cormach Evans

By Melissa Bickford

First Nations community leaders Cormach Evans and Dr Luke Martin joined Foundation CEO Shane Lucas during October’s Gambling Harm Awareness Week to yarn about First Nations’ approaches to gambling treatment leading to prosperous futures and generational change.

Proud Yorta Yorta man Cormach founded both Strong Brother Strong Sister (SBSS) and Ngarrimili. SBSS supports First Nations children and young people to achieve positive social and emotional wellbeing while ensuring connections to culture and community. It is funded by the Foundation to deliver the Djilang Gambling Awareness Program.

Ngarrimili creates opportunities for First Nations businesses to achieve economic prosperity. Through Cormach’s work, communities are now seeing generational wealth-creation.

Dr Martin is a proud Palawa man, lawyer and board member of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. While he currently serves as a solicitor, he is soon to take up a hospital position as a practising doctor.

He is passionate about empowering First Nations’ voices to work with government and businesses to help bridge the gap in health and economics.

SBSS programs for young people and their families focus on holistic development – the development of the whole person, taking into consideration the family context. Dr Martin’s interest in healthcare equity for First Nations people dovetails with that holistic approach.

Gambling in a First Nations context

Shane noted that, while many First Nations people have associate gambling with positive experiences such as gathering with family and friends, ‘harm is not well understood or addressed in some communities’.

‘Low incomes and over-crowded housing push people to gambling,’ said Cormach who reported that many community members resort to gambling as a way to make ends meet.

However he sees many young people now with changed attitudes around wellbeing and prosperity.

‘Elders have eliminated barriers for us’, he continued. ‘Young people are on different journeys now, looking at business and entrepreneurship, and that contributes to self-determination and generational change.

‘It’s inspiring to see our young people making decisions. They have a voice now.’

It’s inspiring to see our young people making decisions. They have a voice now.’
Cormach Evans

Cormach acknowledged the ways gambling ads market to young people and people from low socio-economic areas, while gaming is increasingly taking on the architecture of gambling.

‘With online games, when we first started the [SBSS] program, we saw kids spending thousands. It comes back to great leaders, education and [family and community] supports in lowering those risks,’ he said.

‘Young people on Wadawurrung Country are really lucky because Elders and strong community networks help prevent risk-taking. Deep connections nurture and divert that into positive situations.’

Connection to Country

Dr Martin regards land as essential to social and emotional wellbeing for First Nations people, with disconnection from Country making them particularly vulnerable.

‘Most First Nations peoples had their lands stolen,’ he said, ‘and land needs to be returned to undo some of the harm of colonisation.

‘People who can form those connections to traditional lands have much better health outcomes.’
Dr Luke Martin

‘Less than a third of Aboriginal people have stable accommodation. We have the lowest rates of home ownership in Australia which is reflective of our traditional lands being stolen and given by the Crown for free to pastoralists.

‘From a First Nations perspective, it’s very important to be connected to Country; to have that holistic connection to land. People who can form those connections to traditional lands have much better health outcomes.’

Partnering with the Foundation

Cormach was positive about the SBSS experience of working with the Foundation.

‘They listen and offer support [which] allows for self-determination and young people co-designing programs,’ he said.

‘It’s created opportunities for communities to benefit through employment.’
Cormach Evans

‘It’s created opportunities for communities to benefit through employment. Career pathways are being pursued and growth opportunities that allow ripple effects that will flow on for years. We’re seeing stuff happening now that will contribute to many more outcomes that not only affect the individual but will affect everyone else as well.

‘From a learning perspective it’s been amazing too. It really aligns with the way we work; that holistic approach, and also that culturally safe and valuing approach.

‘There are great opportunities to continue that work supporting both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities to learn and walk together and have mutual respect and learnings.

‘It’s a really exciting time.’

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