Having fought all odds, now a champion of youth causes

By Indira Laisram

When Elvis Martin came to Australia, he wanted to study medicine and become a cardiologist. It was not viewed as a ‘masculine subject’ by his orthodox parents who wanted him to take up Business and Accountancy instead. At 17, says Martin, you do listen to whatever your parents tell you. So, he ended up with the latter but failed miserably in the first semester itself, it wasn’t his subject. Next, when he decided to come out of the closet, it was a double whammy for his parents. They decided to cut off all ties. For Elvis, the emotional ramifications were huge. It would change the narrative of his life altogether.

Martin experienced homelessness, depression and for nearly a year the hospital was his home. But it was, in hindsight, a momentary disruption of his life as he learnt to find a new way.

When he was in hospital, Martin managed to spend copious amount of time reading up on mental health affecting the youth and about policies and programs by scouring every information from the libraries in the CBD—such that he was determined to find a way to become a part of the system that addresses these issues. He chose a purpose in life.

One day, he decided to meet Lyn Morgain, then CEO of cohealth, a not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all, at an event he discovered on Facebook. “I had only two pairs of clothing that was given to me by a nurse’s brother and I turned up at the event with my trackpants and thongs but nobody judged me,” he recollects.

At the end of the event when he did meet the CEO, Martin, who went prepared, told her about certain loopholes in youth policies. The next thing he knew, there were few meetings scheduled and he was eventually asked to lead cohealth Youth Action Council. The rest, as they say, is history.

The transition from hospital to a normal life proved a crazy journey. Suddenly Martin found himself at the helm of activities. By then, he decided to sign up the papers that allowed his transition to permanent residency in Australia as his life was a threat in the country he came from. It was something he did not give a thought to as he felt he had died a long back and that “living was not for me”.

To cut a long story short, after cofounding cohealth Youth Action Council, Martin got appointed to the city mission’s Youth Action Council and started doing multiple things including representing Australia at the United Nations as a youth representative for the United Nations Urban Agenda For Sustainability.

In recognition, Martin has been given the prestigious ‘Young Community Achiever of the Year 2021’ by the India Australia Business and Community Awards (IABCA) to add to his other accomplishments such as Victorian Premier Leadership Award in 2021 and 2018, International Young Leader of the year—UN Global compact and mind foundation 2019, Multicultural influencer award 2019, the Victorian Police Appreciation certificate 2019, to name a few.

Today, Martin is the Principal Ambassador of the National Youth Commission Australia, a Director of Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC), and a Council Member of the Mental Health Commission.

By his own telling, Martin’s mission is simple. “I want to help those in need”, and this is what he is keen to dedicate his life to. This encompasses promoting compassion, equality and human rights, and advocacy around issues such as mental health, homelessness, domestic violence, suicide prevention and the LGBTIQ+ community, as well as using his platform to advocate inclusion and equality for Indigenous Australians.

Martin actively works at different levels of government and with others to influence politicians and administrators to develop better policies and create more effective strategies that make a difference for those young people most in need. “I want to live in a world where being vulnerable is not seen as being incapable nor a life sentence,” he reflects.

Martin has been recently appointed to Anti-RACISM Taskforce of the government. He is the only Indian background person on this taskforce and very proud to serve the people and make changes to reduce racism and any form of discrimination.

However, despite life being seemingly successful now, he has copped a battery of abuses and faces constant threats from people who oppose his coming out in the open about his sexuality. When he appeared on SBS’s Insight program last year sharing his survivor story, the channel had to actually mute off comments online.

Of course Martin has decided not to give power to these trolls by getting intimidated and pushes for concentration on doing his job which gives him happiness. “I respond to the many people who reach out to me on my social feeds, I just want to contribute my bit towards helping the community.” Incidentally, he has 18k followers on Instagram who follow his work and love him for what he is.

In fact, Martin’s psychologist has presented the evaluation of his work gingerly, telling him he needs to now start living for himself to – a quiet confirmation that Martin is realising now. He knows life is no meandering path anymore, it will always follow the path of service to the youth and community.

Connect with Indira Laisram on Twitter

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