Hamed Allahyari - making a difference in the asylum seeker and refugee community

11 October 2019

Hamed Allahyari arrived in Australia as an asylum seeker and completed his course in English as an Additional Language at VU Polytechnic. Hamed now runs a social enterprise café, Cafe Sunshine & SalamaTea, offering employment to asylum seekers and refugees.

Hamed grew up in Iran and fled to Australia in 2012, where he began volunteering for the kitchen of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). It was working as a kitchenhand where Hamed met Jen, another food program volunteer, and when the idea of setting up a support system for other asylum seekers and refugees began. They shared a vision of opening up a restaurant to offer employment to those who had no qualifications and to give asylum seekers and refugees a chance to begin their new lives in Australia.

Hamed and Jen opened up the café two months ago located in the heart of Sunshine. Hamed has offered nine asylum seekers part-time jobs and endeavours to expand on the business in order to extend employability to more asylum seekers and refugees.

“We hope to get busier to employ more asylum seekers, we want to support seekers and give them enough confidence and experience to become cooks and coffee makers.”

While studying at Victoria University Polytechnic, Hamed found a sense of belonging:

“I had previously studied at other institutions for English classes, but the teachers didn’t care. At Victoria University, they were very good teachers and everyone was very kind”.

Currently, two of Hamed’s staff are studying at VU Polytechnic, Sam Yosefnejad who currently studies IT and Isata T. Kabia who had recently completed her Certificate IV in Disability.

The café specialises in Persian delicacies, operating as Café Sunshine during daytime trading hours and as SalamaTea Restaurant during the evenings. Hamed has a focus on sustainability and actively limits his impact on the environment,

“We are focused on achieving zero waste and we do not use any plastic in our place.”

Hamed enjoys cooking traditional Iranian and modern foods, with his expertise residing in the falafels and three-herb yoghurt (dadami) dip.

Café Sunshine & SalamaTea Restaurant is located at 21 Dickson Street, Sunshine.

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