NSW Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello, donned an apron to cook up a free lunch for up a group of asylum seekers at the SSI Community Kitchen in Auburn.
Mr Dominello, whose grandparents migrated to Australia from Italy, said he was honoured to meet with asylum seekers, SSI employees and volunteers, and to have the opportunity to share his love of cooking with them.
Mr Dominello said he wanted to attend the Community Kitchen to learn more about the circumstances of asylum seekers living in Sydney.
“The language of good food is universal – it can break down cultural barriers, and that is what the SSI Community Kitchen is all about,” Mr Dominello said.
“As Minister for Citizenship and Communities, I think it’s important to meet regularly with new migrants and asylum seekers to understand their stories and circumstances.
“Thanks to the influence of our migrant communities, we are lucky to have such an amazing array of cuisines in Australia. Today I met with a group of people who face difficult circumstances but who are able to gain strength from the sense of belonging and community which the Community Kitchen offers.”
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the Community Kitchen was just one of the initiatives SSI had created to do more for new arrivals. “SSI Community Kitchen, and other SSI community engagement initiatives, like Playtime multicultural playgroup and our sporting activities for asylum seekers, have proven to be effective ways to give a sense of community and belonging to asylum seekers and refugees who are otherwise at risk of social isolation and mental health issues.
“Community engagement helps boost their wellbeing,” added Ms Roumeliotis. “Many of our asylum seeker clients have told us that Community Kitchen is the highlight of their otherwise purposeless and limited days. It’s a space they own, and helping out on the day gives them a sense of purpose and belonging.”
SSI case manager Muhammad Sadiq, a renowned cook who often plays head chef at Community Kitchen, was in charge of the menu for the day, cooking food from his native Pakistan.
Mr Dominello said he enjoyed picking up some Pakistani cooking techniques from Mr Sadiq, which he will add to his usually Italian-focused cooking repertoire.
“As a Minister I attend a lot of evening functions and sadly I don’t get as much time to cook as I would like, but today was great opportunity to get in the kitchen and meet some inspiring people in the process.”
February 11, 2015