Doing good.

Making a positive difference is at the heart of what we do.

1 July 2023

Meet our First Nations partners

Cotton On is proud to be an Australian-born business on First Nations lands. We Acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original custodians of the lands upon which we live and work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and extend that respect and appreciation for the thousands of years that they have cared for and conserved this Country’s lands, waters and culture, and continue this today.

Dhimurru - Learning on Country

From remote North-East Arnhem Land to Wadawurrung Country in Victoria’s south, Cotton On Foundation is proud to partner with First Nations organisations that are empowering young people with the skills and support they need to succeed in their own right. Through the protection, preservation and celebration of cultural knowledge, future generations can continue to express and explore their identity, while deepening their connection to community and Country.

Strong Brother Strong Sister
Creating a strong sense of belonging, through meaningful support networks.

Youth run. Youth owned. Youth focused. Strong Brother Strong Sister (SBSS) is a space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and their families to access support, and connect to culture and identity. Founded in 2017 by Cormach Evans, a proud Yorta Yorta man, SBSS is an Aboriginal owned and led organisation, servicing Geelong and the greater Wadawurrung area. Through youth groups, mentoring and one-on-one counselling, SBSS are breaking down barriers facing young people today, advocating for the needs of their community and amplifying the voices of young First Nations people.

“We have programs that are designed and led by Aboriginal young people for the community to ensure that the specific focus is the needs of young people and the voices of young people as well.”

— Cormach Evans, SBSS Founder

Our connection with Yirrkala

In the Northern Territory, 900km east of Darwin in North-East Arnhem Land is the Yirrkala community, home of the Yolŋu people. Their culture spans back over 60,000 years, passed down from generation to generation through song, dance, art and ceremony. Yolŋu continue to protect cultural knowledge and empower their young people to celebrate and express their identity. Since 2013, the Cotton On Foundation has been proudly working with this region, supporting educational programs that increase a young person’s connection to culture, self-worth and identity.

Djalkiri Foundation
Supporting Yolŋu people to lead empowered lives of meaning.

‘Djalkiri’ is a Yolŋu word, meaning ‘foundation’. It’s the heart of a Yolŋu person’s identity, the thing that makes someone Yolŋu. Established by Yolŋu woman Rarrtjiwuy Melanie Herdman, Djalkiri Foundation was created to hold space, provide support and help create meaningful individualised plans for Yolŋu people to find success in their own right. Faced with the challenges of navigating two worlds, Djalkiri Foundation ensures that Yolŋu people are empowered to own their journey and shape their own future. Working alongside mentors and community Elders, programs include higher education support, wellbeing support and mentoring for personal life plans.

“If we are able to create the space for them to understand and reflect on their impact as individuals and as a Yolŋu person within their bigger community, they have the potential to walk in both worlds. To be able to understand and operate in a Western world, uphold and continue their responsibilities as a Yolŋu person, and reflect on the importance of their Djalkiri.”

— Rarrtjiwuy Melanie Herdman, Manapanami (CEO) of Djalkiri Foundation

The Mulka Project
Exploring Yolŋu culture through music, story, art and creative expression.

The name ‘Mulka’ means a sacred but public ceremony. It also means to hold or protect. The Mulka Project takes place in the Buku-Larrŋgay Arts Centre, an important archival centre for Yolŋu people. Knowledge of Yolŋu culture past and present can be found within the walls of this creative community hub. The Mulka Project gives Yolŋu youth the opportunity to take part in digital, visual and cultural art under the leadership of community elders and external specialists. Students have access to a production house, recording studio, digital learning centre and cultural archive, and regular music workshops to help them develop skills in the creative arts, and build confidence to express and explore their identity.

Learning on Country
Deepening connection to culture within the school curriculum through knowledge from elders.

As part of the Yirrkala School and Yirrkala Homelands School curriculum, Yolŋu secondary students can take part in Learning on Country ‘Galtha Rom’ workshops. This program goes beyond the classroom and takes place on country, and connects students with Yolŋu learnings. The program combines classroom studies on topics such as climate change and marine debris, integrated with the Yolŋu teachings of elders and rangers. This program has the ability to culturally empower students in a way that integrates both Western and Yolŋu knowledge. Most importantly, it maintains a strong connection to country and identity, under the guidance of Yolŋu.

Yirrkala School Wellbeing Program
Engaging and supporting students through mentorship.

The Yirrkala School Wellbeing Program led by Senior Cultural Advisor Djalinda Yunupiŋu, aims to strengthen the students’ connection and engagement with their school and teachers. Students and their families are encouraged to connect, support one another and celebrate achievements. These Wellbeing workshops support students to complete their Year 12 studies. Djalinda says, “It is critical that we take the time to slow down and listen to students and their families. We are welcomed, connected and trusted. Witnessing strong engagement of young people with learning and school is the highlight of our work.”

Community Based Aboriginal Teacher Education (C-BATE)
Supporting Yolŋu teachers to further their careers without leaving their communities to study.

Teachers can develop skills while remaining connected to their families, communities and Elders. This will increase the number of qualified Yolŋu teachers working in Yirrkala School and Laynhapuy Homelands Schools, while supporting the teachers in maintaining a strong sense of culture and identity.

Let’s give 100%

Together, we’ve raised over AUD $3.7M to date to support our First Nations partners. Your ongoing support is the reason we can continue to partner with these amazing programs and make a difference. Grab a Cotton On Foundation item today. 100% of proceeds support projects that empower youth to thrive.