This year, Refugee Week events were cancelled as Sydney went into lockdown. Welcome Merchant – a platform that highlights refugee-powered or aligned businesses and organises events connecting them with the public – had planned a big weekend of workshops, pop-up dinners and a world-music concert. They were all cancelled.
“I’m lucky I still have a full-time job, but the other entrepreneurs and chefs we work with who were supposed to work that night, it’s a big loss for them,” founder Marjorie Tenchavez tells Broadsheet. “And some of the businesses we’ve featured and are going to feature have all been impacted by this lockdown as well.”
On Instagram, Welcome Merchant posted about some of the refugee-powered small businesses and community allies doing it tough that Sydneysiders can support during lockdown, whether it’s by buying their products online or ordering takeaway. She shares a few of them below.
Talal Almardoud opened this restaurant in April after years running a catering business called Syrian Kitchen. “He’s on a temporary protection visa and that doesn’t make him eligible for any government support, and he can’t access any grants available,” Tenchavez says.
Damascus Restaurant has quickly flipped to takeaway, with a menu that includes foul (cooked fava beans and chickpeas) with tahini and yoghurt; hummus with shawarma; baba ganoush; falafel; tabouli; and more.
850 Hume Highway, Bass Hill
Heydar Ashktalkh arrived in Australia in 2010 as a refugee from Iran; his business, Ramssin, sells old display furniture at low cost. Need a new bed frame, dining table, couch, TV unit or wardrobe? He’s your guy.
“No one can physically go to his storage spaces – he doesn’t have a shopfront, he just works out of two sheds – so people can go on his website and buy directly from him,” Tenchavez says.
“It’s an Iraqi restaurant that opened in 2016, and they just renovated it as well. They were really excited by the fact that Covid was quote-unquote ‘over’ in Sydney, but here they are – they’ve had to revert back to takeaway again,” Tenchavez says.
On the family-owned restaurant’s menu: barbeque kebab plates, quzi (a rice dish with slow-cooked lamb), shish kebabs with sides, tikka shish rolls, hummus and shawarma with rice. Available on Uber Eats.
228–230 The Boulevarde, Fairfield Heights
Ameen Bushter was born in Australia, but his father – a long-time baker – wasn’t. “His parents came over from Iraq in the late ’90s, and … he just kept seeing his dad get exploited by all the places he’s worked at, so he said, ‘I don’t want that to happen to my dad anymore,’ and he saved up money to open his own bakery,” Tenchavez says.
Rock up for artisanal breads cooked in a tandoor; traditional kleicha (rolled date cookies) filled with not-so-traditional Nutella; man’oushe (Levantine pizzas) and more.
8A Civic Centre Arcade, Fairfield
Nigerian jewellery designer Bilikis Gbadamosi was meant to host a beading workshop for Welcome Merchant last weekend, but it was cancelled due to lockdown; she receives no financial aid from the government. You can purchase her jewellery through The Social Outfit or Made by Many Hands.
“This is a wonderful social enterprise that supports women who’ve been victims of human trafficking. Their cafe is where they train women so they become more independent and able to find work,” Tenchavez says.
Most of its funding comes from hiring out the venue space for weddings and events, but the cafe is still open for takeaway. Get your smashed avo, acai bowl, or bacon and egg roll brekkie fix, or pop in for coffee, hot chocolate, juice and smoothies to go.
283 Young Street, Waterloo
Angkor Flowers & Crafts
If you’re thinking of ordering a bouquet for a friend, loved one or yourself, why not support refugees and new migrants while you’re at it? Founder Sophea Chea moved to Australia from Cambodia after finishing her studies here and now helps train new arrivals in the art of flower arranging.
“She kept encountering women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, especially where she lived [in western Sydney], who were struggling to find work, so she started this amazing florist business as a social enterprise,” Tenchavez says. Same-day delivery is available if you order by 2pm, Monday to Sunday.
Ati Art School
Iranian art teacher Atefeh Hekmat runs an art school and gallery space, but most of her income comes from hosting art classes – some of which have been cancelled due to lockdown. You can support her by booking into a class for when lockdown lifts, or by purchasing beautiful art from her online store.
After 14 years, Syrian-Australian sisters Sharon and Carol Salloum have decided to close their beloved restaurant Almond Bar in Darlinghurst – but they wanted to do it with a bang (the send-off was to include one of their popular Syrian barbeques). Instead, the eatery’s last trading week will take place under lockdown.
Grab some last-chance takeaway before Almond Bar closes for good: there’s falafel, fresh haloumi, lamb shoulder, ocean trout and more available for pick-up or delivery within three kilometres, and all wines are currently 30 per cent off. After closing, you can still eat the sisters by getting take-home meals from their Ashbury cafe 3 Tomatoes
379 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst
The cancellation of Welcome Merchant’s Refugee Week events has meant a loss of income for its partner chefs, entrepreneurs, workshop facilitators and entertainers, too. You can support the collective by booking tickets to rescheduled events or attending its next Curated Dining Experience once announced. And if you’re still looking for more businesses to support, check out its directory of refugee-powered businesses around the country.
Sydney is currently in lockdown. Masks are mandated in public indoor spaces. Public gatherings are banned and minimal social contact is recommended. If you have concerns about visiting businesses or public spaces, or questions about self-isolation or coronavirus testing, check out the latest updates from NSW Government.