WARRANDYTE not-for-profit café Now and Not Yet are known for providing great coffee, service and atmosphere for their local community to enjoy. But now its branching out with compassion by supporting Victoria’s refugee community.
In 2015, Now and Not Yet employed two young refugee men from Sri Lanka, Nigethan and Selvam, recently released from Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, a detention centre in Broadmeadows.
One of these men is Nigethan, a skilled chef from Sri Lanka, currently living in Warrandyte and working in Now and Not Yet’s kitchen.
“I spent the last six years in a detention centre, and was released four months ago,” Nigethan told the Diary.
“Now, I am very lucky to be here and to have a job in this restaurant. I am very happy and very thankful for the opportunity.”
Derek Bradshaw, founder and general manager of Now and Not Yet, knew there was something he could do to help asylum seekers find their feet in Australia.
“We got really passionate about the refugee issue and the way our government is treating these beautiful and amazing people. We thought why don’t we start utilising our amazing little café to be able to help with training and employment opportunities,” Derek told the Diary.
“Part of our goal is to help people get some longevity and housing. A lot of them can’t get a job because they don’t have a fixed address, and they can’t get a fixed address because they haven’t got a job. These people too, they’ve got amazing skills but they don’t have the opportunity to use them or the chance to get some training under their belt. And long term employment helps them to be able to feel good about themselves and feel like they’re actually contributing to Australian society.”
Nigethan’s contribution to the Warrandyte community has been stellar. An incredible chef with a heart of gold, Nige has been cooking up delicious food for locals and visitors for the past few months, bringing his own unique touch to each and every dish.
“My favourite dish to cook is the coconut butter chicken. It’s not too spicy. In my country, we cook with lots of spice, but here I cook so that anyone can have it, even children,” he says.
“I’m just working in the kitchen at the moment, so that I can get experience. But then I want to learn to do coffee.”
Now and Not Yet has provided support, housing, employment and friendly guidance to help Nigethan and Selvam find their feet outside the detention centre walls. But the Warrandyte community has also been a force to be reckoned with, donating food, money, bedding and household items to give these men a head start.
“One of the things I love about the Warrandyte community is that they’re really passionate about the things we’re passionate about. They’ve given us everything you can possibly think of. Even one lady who’d done her research on Sri Lankan food went out and bought us all these Sri Lankan spices and a picnic basket so that they could make food and go down to the river to enjoy beautiful Warrandyte,” Derek says.
Nigethan is especially thankful for Derek and his family, who have taken him in and provided him with a positive start in his life outside of detention. The wider Warrandyte community has also ensured that Nigethan feels welcome everywhere he goes.
“I like going to the river. I also like the coffee and the nice people – it’s nice to see new faces all the time. When I was in the detention centre, it was the same people all the time. But now I really enjoy every day. I really love this place,” he says.
Derek hopes Nigethan and Selvam are the first of many to benefit from Now and Not Yet’s program, helping them not only with housing and employment but also with developing their interview and CV skills and improving their English.
“The long-term goal is to continue the program and get people on the road. But we’ve made a commitment to this and they’re part of the family now, so we will continue to support them, encourage them and make sure they’ve got stability moving forward,” Derek says.
The café manager couldn’t be more proud of the way the Warrandyte community has rallied their support for Nigethan and Selvam, and hopes we can all lend a hand in making a difference for refugees and asylum seekers not only in our community, but in all of Australia.
“It’s not an asylum seeker issue that we’re talking about – we’re talking about real people. People who love and are passionate. I hate the way that it’s become this political issue and it’s completely dehumanised.”
“There is joy that comes from engaging with somebody and stopping the dehumanising of it. It’s great. It’s a really good thing for Warrandyte to be part of. Making a difference and standing up to our government and saying ‘this is not the way that we want to treat people’.”
“They bring a lot to our community so it’s a privilege to be a part of it.”