During Refugee Week (16 – 22 June), we celebrate the contribution refugees make to our society and honour the often perilous journey that refugees have taken to reach Australia. The 2019 focus concept “Share a meal, share a story” provides an opportunity for people to connect with refugees in Australia. At CFA, we work with refugees throughout the year to help them feel safer in a new country by improving their fire safety knowledge.
Dandenong Neighbourhood House and CFA’s longstanding collaboration facilitates local work in cooking programs with newly arrived groups and refugees. The purpose of this work is to understand fire safety in their homes, particularly in the kitchen.
Throughout the ten-week course, the group of adults from all over the world (including Burma, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Iran) exercise fire safe practice with help from the facilitators at the Dandenong Neighbourhood House.
Nada El-Masri, CFA’s Cultural and Diversity Engagement Officer for South East Region, attends part of the course throughout the semester to ensure the standards of fire safe practice are met, and the habits are being formed among the asylum seekers and refugees.
Nada hosts two information sessions based around home fire safety, where participants are shown how to use fire blankets, smoke alarms and how to execute a fire evacuation plan. The group also learn about bushfire, so they’re safer if they decide to explore more of Victoria.
Sharon Ramsey, the House Chef at Dandenong Neighbourhood House, works with the group to ensure they are safely learning new practical skills, as well as improving their English.
“I asked them to write down some traditional recipes and the stories behind them – and they were absolutely amazing,” Sharon said.
One participant, Rihanna, was originally from Afghanistan and lived in Pakistan. She went to the USA embassy in the hopes of leaving, only to be told she must marry. Married at 21, Rihanna had 3 children and moved to Australia in 2014 where she studies English, and her children are in high school. “I’m happy Australia has showed [me] how to learn, look for work and to do something for me and my family,” Rihanna said.
Amy, who has been in Australia for just over two years, refuged to escape her husband. She left three older children, one married, in Malaysia to live a safer life in Melbourne. “I enjoy cooking class because I like to use my time wisely,” Amy said. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can for work, and [to] give something back to the country that took me in safely”.