Refugee Week brings colour and taste to Wollongong

Ethiopian Selemawit Wosen with some Ethiopian cuisine. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI
Ethiopian Selemawit Wosen with some Ethiopian cuisine. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Refugees from around the world have long settled in Wollongong for a better life, and some of the region's newest arrivals will bring a taste of their home cultures to a special community dinner as part of Refugee Week.

More than 840 refugees have found new homes in the Illawarra since 2010, coming from countries many of us will never see - Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Burundi, Ethiopia, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 30 of those new arrivals will host a dinner at Wollongong Town Hall on June 16, as part of refugee advocacy group SCARF's Traditional Cuisine Catering program which helps refugees set up their own small businesses.

"The dinner will be celebrating our three main refugee groups, which are African, Burmese and Middle Eastern arrivals," said Caitlin Drabble, co-ordinator of the catering project.

New arrivals will prepare food from their home culture, as well as provide traditional entertainment including Togolese dancing, Burundi drumming and a Persian band.

"It is about bridging the culture gap with food," Ms Drabble said.

The Tastes Of The World dinner will launch Wollongong Refugee Week, which also includes a soccer tournament, a mass choir fund-raising performance, and more advocacy and awareness events.

Ms Drabble said the program had been a huge success, providing income and spreading understanding between refugees and their new home. The project has been tapped to cater for business dinners, parties, public functions and schools since early 2013.

Vimala Colless, from Wollongong City Council multicultural services, said the SCARF project had helped smooth the transition for new arrivals.

"It's a fantastic employment opportunity for budding talents," she said.

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