Knives are sharpened, recipe cards are out, and aprons are tied around the waists of those eager to embrace a new cultural experience.

In celebration of Refugee Week, the non-profit youth organisation, ‘The Youth Co-Lab’ hosted a free cultural cooking class in collaboration with ‘CORE Community Services’ on Saturday 21 June to shed light on the refugee experience and celebrate the positive contributions of refugees to Australian society.

The class, named ‘The Kitchen Co-Lab’, ran its sixth cooking class at the CORE Community centre in Fairfield, with refugees Maria Smano and Nahrain Khamo highlighting south-west Sydney’s rich Assyrian culture by sharing their recipes and experiences of migrating to Australia.

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“Our culture is more than 7000 years’ old, so it’s very important for us to express ourselves and make people know who we are, not just in food,” said Nahrain of her Assyrian heritage.

The pair taught the class how to make dolma, a traditional middle-eastern dish made with a vegetarian rice filling rolled in grape leaves, before sharing their experiences of arriving to Australia with an audience largely made of recent refugees and second-generation migrants.

The young participants then received an opportunity to discuss their own refugee experiences, with many tearing up when discussing the heartbreak of losing their family members in war.

CORE Community Services Youth Settlement Worker, Martina Yokhana, said that it was “really amazing to see [the participants] open up about their personal refugee stories” and how “supportive and inclusive” the class was.

Namson Nguyen, 24, also participated in the class and said it was “definitely good hearing everyone’s journey”.

In 2017, more than half of Australia’s Syrian and Iraqi refugees settled in Fairfield City.

The Youth Co-Lab and CORE Community Services are organisations that aim to promote social inclusion and celebrate cultural diversity in the south-west Sydney region, with the latter assisting newly arrived migrants settle in the area.

Refugee Week was held between 16-22 June this year to celebrate the valuable contributions that refugees have made to Australian society, and to create better understanding between different communities.

For more information about The Youth Co-Lab or Kitchen Co-Lab, visit www. theyouthcolab.com.au or
email at admin@theyouthcolab.com.au.

For more information about CORE Community Services, visit corecs.org.au or email at info@corecs.org.au.