The one stop shop for helping anybody along their journey, Yalagan Group is an Indigenous-owned business dedicated to delivering Indigenous-orientated, value-adding and innovative solutions.

Yalagan was founded by Yuin man, Nathan Martin, who grew up on Wreck Bay mission.

“I moved out of home when I was 15 and I moved to Sydney with my grandmother, I never looked back from there,” Martin said.

“I finished off my schooling, I did my HSC … I then went off to work. I worked for probably nine years in the construction space, and then I got up to a bit of mischief which got me locked up for four years. I had about two and a half years parole on top of that as well.

“That took me away from my family for almost four years … whilst I was in there, I decided that wasn’t where I wanted to be with my life, this is not what I want to do. I wanted to change it, and the idea I had was to start Yalagan, to work with Indigenous people in the construction space.”

Throughout his time in prison, Martin participated in the Never Going Back Program run by Corrective Services in conjunction with Tribal Warrior and the NSW Police. The program focuses on helping incarcerated Indigenous men to learn skills and strategies which will help them succeed after their release, breaking the incarceration cycle.

After Martin’s release he began working with Tribal Warrior, taking part in the Street Movement, a program that mentors youth to help them stay clear of crime and negative influences. Street Movement pushed Martin to begin his journey with Yalagan.

“All of this would not have transpired if I hadn’t had got the opportunity from Tribal Warrior to do the Never Going Back Program out of Redfern there with Uncle Shane,” Martin said.

“It was a really big challenge, but it was one of the major factors of me not actually going back to prison. I’ve been out now for over four years and I’ve had this business now for around three and a half years.”

At its heart, Yalagan focuses on empowering Indigenous people.

“The heart of everything is about bringing jobs to the community. It is about giving people an opportunity [they] would never get anywhere else. That is the whole reason I started Yalagan,” said Martin.

“For me it’s about giving opportunity where no one else would have. The same principle as what happened to me with Tribal Warrior and the Never Going Back Program, I want to give that opportunity to people.”

Martin created Yalagan around his experiences and his strengths.

“I’ve worked in the construction space for nearly nine years so I know it back to front. I knew the opportunities in there for Indigenous people that no one was tapping into. I thought I could use the contacts I had and bring some good people around me to make that dream a reality and I think that is what we have done now,” he said.

“The first person we put into work had actually done 15 years in jail. That was our first person who went out to work when I started this business. That is always in the back of my mind and it’s the whole reason I do it. All the rest are just add-ons you know.”

Yalagan has made it through COVID-19 with Martin’s leadership.

“[My business partner, mentor and I] sat down as a team and worked through events and processes and the way forward. What we came up with was just to be honest with people, if we found out information, we would pass it on whether bad or good,” he said.

“I’m not afraid to have a conversation whether it is bad or good. You just don’t know what people are going through and that little piece of information that you might give them may help them through something else you know.”

The Yalagan team is ticking off its goals one by one, this week becoming a registered training organisation (RTO).

“We want to become a GTO, a group training organisation, [next] … so I can work with somebody at the start of their career when they absolutely know nothing or I can work with somebody when they want a little bit more in their career,” Martin said.

“I want to be able to work with anybody at any time, whether that person is in prison, whether that person is out of prison, whether that person has just come out of school, whether they’ve just left school at 16 or finished their HSC. We can work with them to get them into work.

“It’s a one stop shop that can help anybody along their journey, that’s the idea I had for Yalagan and we’re almost there!”

By Rachael Knowles