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Posted by: Charles Mar 31 2018, 09:06 AM
Parents' Cafe 'refugee hub' adds theatre to the menu in last-ditch attempt to avoid closure

By Antonette Collins

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Photo: Haitham Jaju and Fatem Shamaan perform at the Parents' Cafe in Fairfield. (ABC News: Antonette Collins)

A vital community hub in Sydney's south-west that supports Iraqi and Syrian refugees is on the brink of closure with funding due to run out in the next few months.

Established eight years ago, the Parents' Cafe in Fairfield is more than just a place to eat and drink.

It provides essential services, courses and a place to meet for thousands of refugees who have settled in the area after fleeing from conflict.

There are fears closure of the cafe — located on the grounds of Fairfield High School — will have devastating consequences for those who rely on it as an important part of their new lives.

The cafe recently collaborated with Powerhouse Youth Theatre in Fairfield, to host a production called Little Baghdad, in a last-ditch effort to raise awareness of the cafe's plight and to encourage government funding, benefactors or members of the community to donate.


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Photo: Iraqi and Syrian refugees enjoy sharing their culture. (ABC News: Antonette Collins)

Over two weekends in March, audience members arrived as guests at a dinner party, feasting on a delicious meal and taking a tour through the grounds.

As part of the performance, they listened to music and stories and immersed themselves in the lives of those who were now making their home in Australia.

PYT artistic director Karen Therese said the theatre company felt it was important to do whatever it could to help raise awareness of the important services provided by the Parents' Cafe.

"You sit with someone who's new to this country and make a friend," she said.

"Refugees and people who are new to Australia want to have friends and they want to meet people and for people to hear their stories and know they're good people."

Ms Therese said the refugees benefited as much from their performances as the audience did.

"They just get a lot of joy and they get to be seen and heard and they get to share their culture," she said.


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Photo: Refugees take part in course such as hospitality, catering and horticulture. (ABC News: Antonette Collins)

Faten Shamaan heard about the community group four years ago, and has been coming ever since.

"We take some coffee, some tea and some lunch. So many people I say to them 'come here, come here'… it's a good community."

The not-for-profit organisation offers settlement support for new refugees, linking them to services like Medicare and Centrelink.

It also provides English lessons and courses in catering, hospitality, sewing and horticulture.

"This Parents' Cafe is a safe hub for them where they have a place to come and meet with others, learn something and participate in activities, attend workshops," said one of the founders, Haitham Jaju.

"It's become part of their everyday life."

The former Iraqi diplomat arrived in Australia in 2006, after finishing a post in India and being unable to return to his homeland due to ongoing violence.

He and his family found it difficult to settle into their new lives in Sydney, but he now draws upon his own experiences and expertise to help others.

"When I arrived here, I realised how hard in the beginning it is for someone to settle here, especially for those who don't have language or any information," he said.

"That helped me to identify where the difficulties are in resettlement, and how they can find solutions or where to go."

Eight thousand of the 12,000 refugees from the recent crisis in Iraq and Syria have been settled in south-western Sydney.

And while the Parents' Cafe has been recognised by the United Nations as one of the world's best resettlement programs, its current funding is coming to an end.

Mr Jaju has already released some casual staff, and fears that soon he and four other part-time employees will be out of work.

"Now we are in a very critical situation where we can't find funds, secure funding till the end of the year," he said.

Ms Therese said the cafe needed $180,000 annually to be able to support 200 people to attend each week.

She said it was an effective "solutions-based model" that was not widely known about.

"This is former refugees supporting newly arrived refugees to be in Australia," she said.

"What we're trying to do is to create a community action and a cultural action and what I hope is to really create some kind of groundswell or cultural movement.

"Everyone wants to know what they can do [to help]. What they can do is come to the Parents' Cafe and have a cup of tea with a friend."


http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-31/refugee-cafe-in-sydney-faces-closure/9605728

Where does the funding to run this project come from?

$180,000 a year seems a very small price to give these refugees a sense of belonging, a place to share their culture and a meeting venue away from the influences of religion.

In addition to the 200 people who attend each week, the Parents' Cafe provides employment to those who might otherwise be relying on welfare.

Posted by: Alicia Mar 31 2018, 11:32 AM
Sounds like a nice way for those people to be introduced to living in Australia .

Posted by: Bill Mar 31 2018, 01:59 PM
I'm almost certain that SBS or the ABC ran a story about this kitchen and the work it does. Maybe with this publicity they will do a follow up.

As I recall, the project was based around sharing food as a means of making friends.

I'll try to do some research over the weekend to try to track the program down. It may still be available, if not on Iview, then maybe on the interrwebby thing.

Posted by: charka Mar 31 2018, 04:52 PM
To be fair sounds a worthwhile cause Far better than most

Posted by: scepo Mar 31 2018, 05:06 PM
Yes on face value, it does sound like a good worthwhile cause.

Posted by: Bear Apr 1 2018, 04:21 PM
"You sit with someone who's new to this country and make a friend," she said.

"Refugees and people who are new to Australia want to have friends and they want to meet people and for people to hear their stories and know they're good people."


It appears to be working well, I wonder if a similar program has been trialled in Melbourne?

It may help African youth integrate, I would rather see taxpayers fund this sort of program than pick up the tab from the ongoing crime and aggression that we continue to see in Melbourne.




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