June 21, 2022

World Music Café: Building multicultural lives in Australia

World Music Café
When people from refugee or migrant backgrounds move to Australia, finding employment can often be their biggest challenge in being able to participate and flourish in our community.
 
Some of the hurdles in gaining employment and integrating socially are significant; including overcoming limited social networks, low English language proficiency, a lack of local work experience, non-recognition of qualifications, and high levels of discrimination in the labour market.
 

Breaking down barriers

A meeting between a group of new migrant women: a chef, an English language teacher, and a musician and arts manager, at a bowling club in the south east of Perth in mid-2019, set the wheels in motion to help overcome these barriers.
 
Together they envisioned a new social enterprise project, providing industry training and hands-on experience in business development and event management for people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. They conceptualised World Music Café - a ‘dinner and show’ business which celebrates diversity of food and music.
 
Jon Cope is the social enterprise facilitator behind the World Music Café.
 
“I had just joined Multicultural Futures as their new social enterprise facilitator as they were starting up the Multicultural Enterprise Development Project and I was responsible for developing a new social enterprise,” says Jon.
 
“We were liaising with a local multicultural community organisation, United in Diversity, and listening to migrant women’s interests while exploring various ideas for a social enterprise that would provide practical work experience and genuine employability skills development.”
 
“The creation of the café was a beautiful synergy of various diverse people’s talents and passions, whether it be in food, world music, or creating authentic cultural event experiences. We all came together and collectively nurtured the World Music Café enterprise as it grew stronger and more stable.”
 

World Music Café is born

For patrons to the World Music Café, events are a moveable feast - with a changing program to showcase a range of artists in different locations around Perth.
 
Behind the scenes, the enterprise participants are working on the event planning, artist coordination, marketing, finance, food preparation, hosting the events, and customer service.
 
There are several key objectives for the participants: to develop transferrable employability skills in a safe and culturally competent training environment; provide authentic paid local work experience, to generate income and get employer references; to provide real connection to the local community, industry networks, and to develop a sense of belonging in Australia.
 
Jon reflects on the past two years of the World Music Café:

“There are many great moments, but the first show was very special as we were a new team creating something different and we didn’t know how successful it would be. We had sold about 70 tickets, then 100 people turned up.

"That night we had a number of acts performing, including Asad Alizada, a dombara player from Afghanistan. Asad had been blinded in the Afghan war and had come to Australia as a humanitarian migrant several years earlier. His performance was so soulful and the audience response was ecstatic.
 
"Music and food are universal to all cultures, and it’s the celebration of these commonalities that bring us together.”

Evaluating impact

 
Jon emphasises that evaluation of the World Music Café’s impact is essential to the credibility of the social enterprise approach.
 
“We know it works; we get such positive feedback from the participants, the artists, and our customers, and tracking the outcomes of the participant’s engagement, but we need time and resources to allow the business success to grow and stabilise.
 
The analysis by the Centre for Social Impact UWA provided great insight into the value of connection and belonging for people of new migrant and refugee backgrounds.”
 
 
The report found that the World Music Café program gave participants practical experience that enabled them to better understand the Australian working environment, provided Australian work experience for their CV, and improved social connections and confidence.
 
The program’s strong focus on celebrating and respecting diverse cultures helped participants feel valued.
 
“People would talk and ask about our culture. Everyone was very kind and respectful. There is an understanding that we are all multicultural and that is our strength,” said a participant from the World Music Cafe ho was involved in the evaluation.

“Participation in the World Music Café provides a safe social network in which to learn about Australian society with others in the same situation,” says Jon.
 
“The transferrable skills acquired are highly valuable to gaining other work opportunities and becoming more confident and settled in the Australian community.”

Pictured above: Mentor chef Nimrod Kazoom, with some of the World Music Café kitchen team.

The World Music Café is part of the Multicultural Enterprise Development Project, a joint initiative between Multicultural Futures and the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre. The project was supported through the Federal Government’s innovative ‘Try Test Learn’ funding program to trial new ways to provide skills training and work experience for people of migrant and refugee backgrounds, and was evaluated by CSI UWA.

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