Community Kitchen provides a social network for asylum seekers in Western Sydney

Updated February 15, 2015 10:43:51

Every fortnight almost 200 asylum seekers gather for an event known as The Community Kitchen, which provides a culinary and social event for those waiting for their refugee status to be processed.

The Community Kitchen is designed to help reduce social isolation for asylum seekers living in the community, and each fortnight a different chef or group of cooks holds a class, preparing meals for everyone with the help of kitchen assistants.

It is a social day out where they can learn from professionals how to prepare a healthy and nutritious meal, as well as interacting with other community members and case managers by playing a game of football, watching a movie, or playing cards and chess.

At a Community Kitchen event in Auburn in Sydney's west, Afghan Hazara refugee Ibrahim Mohammad showed off his specialties as one of the cooks.

Mr Mohammad said coming to The Community Kitchen meant he could get involved with the community socially.

"It's hard to stay here [in Australia] alone," he said.

"I just go to the library and English classes to make the time pass, I have no choice.

"Getting involved in this is very good, better than sitting alone at home."

The 23-year-old fled to Australia two years ago after threats on his life from the Taliban.

"I was working in the bazaar but I couldn't go there anymore," he said.

"There were always killings. They were killing our people so I left."

Mr Mohammad then spent two months in Australian detention before being granted a bridging visa.

He said although detention was challenging at the time, it was safer for him.

"Your life is more safe in detention than in your own country," he said.

"My life is safe, it's ... [better than] our countries where there is killing."

He said being on a bridging visa was also difficult.

"You have no right to work or education and I want to study and do a course if I can," he said.

Another cook is Kurdish refugee Mostafa. His last name cannot be identified for legal reasons.

Mostafa said he had been coming to The Community Kitchen every fortnight for almost a year.

"We [people seeking asylum] feel homesick, but when we come here, we forget our problems; we feel part of a community," he said.

"I have made many friends. They are beautiful people."

The 28-year-old fled Iraq two years ago because he feared persecution.

"I'm Kurd and Kurdish people are being persecuted in Iraq," he said.

"It was dangerous for me, that's why I decided to come here."

Mostafa said being held in detention for three months was stressful.

"It's very stressful, it was hard," he said.

"You have to wait and you don't know how long you have to wait."

Now on a bridging visa, he said he was still experiencing mental issues he suffered from detention.

"It's very difficult without working in Australia, life becomes harsh," he said.

"After two years, I don't know my future."

He said he would like to improve his English skills in order to study at tertiary course.

"I want to learn some skills and do training and then find work."

Community Kitchen organiser Violet Roumeliotis, the CEO of Settlement Services International, said many of these young asylum seekers on bridging visas experienced mental issues and social isolation.

"A lot of these young men and families have been stuck in limbo," she said.

"They've come with ... trauma and a range of other issues.

"They're living on $30 or $32 a day."

Ms Roumeliotis said the fortnightly Community Kitchen brought them together to connect and feel a sense of belonging.

"It's about giving people an opportunity to feel that they belong," she said.

"To get a good meal, to engage with other people, have a bit of fun and feel part of the community rather than sitting at home worrying about their visas."

Joining the community lunch was NSW Minister for Communities and Citizenship Victor Dominello.

"It's about understanding some of the stories these refugees have gone through," said Mr Dominello.

Mr Dominello's visit followed in the wake of NSW Premier Mike Baird's comments last month that Prime Minister Tony Abbott should "do more" to accept refugees and that Australia should "open our arms to those around the world who are much less fortunate than us".

"As the Premier said, we're happy to take our fair share. We're a prosperous state," Mr Dominello said.

"We understand the best assets of our state are our people, our people are diverse, they come from all places around the world."

Topics:refugees, charities-and-community-organisations, food-and-cooking, sydney-2000, auburn-2144

First posted February 15, 2015 10:16:12

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Updated February 15, 2015 10:22:19

At least 400,000 people have lined the streets of Perth for a second day to watch twogiant marionettes walk through the city as part of the International Arts Festival.

The six-metre tall little girl giant continued her search for a second giant, an 11-metre tall deep sea diver who had been resting outside the Perth train station.

On Saturday, he arose from his slumber and also began roaming the streets.

At one point he stopped and appeared to take a drink from a fire truck.

The two figures are due to meet on Sunday at Langley Park and leave on a barge on the Swan River.

The performance, The Incredible and Phenomenal Journey of the Giants, attracted an estimated 180,000 people to the city on Friday.

Crowds began pouring into the CBD from early this morning and people were standing 10-deep in some parts of the city.

A festival spokeswoman said 400,000 people had watched the performance on Saturday morning.

The little girl giant is operated by a team of 25 people pulling strings to make her limbs move.

As she moved along she performed a series of gymnastic moves, before arriving at Weld Square in Northbridge where she was due to have a four-hour nap.

Festival artistic director Jonathan Holloway said he had been "blown away" by how people had responded to the giants.

"The audiences have just been amazing ... obviously the girl is wonderful," he said.

He said the audience reaction had been "unbelievably good .... people are energised, they're excited".

Transperth spokesman David Hynes said trains had been at capacity between 8:00am and 11:00am, with many people at inner-city stations unable to board.

He said extra services and carriages had been put on, and an estimated 18,000 people an hour had travelled by train into the city during that time.

"We did have a few issues earlier - it would seem that people left it a bit late trying to get in to see the diver giant," he said.

"I don't think anyone was expecting such a crush this morning, but that's been resolved now, although numbers are still heavy."

Yesterday the girl travelled several city blocks before resting in a deck chair at Wellington Square and reading from a giant book.

The $5 million event is expected to draw in more than one million people over three days.

Information on finding and following The Giants is at Perth Festival website.

Topics:street-art, performance-art, perth-6000

First posted February 14, 2015 13:12:44

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