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We like to call ourselves “Women of the World” (WoW)…  bringing our unique WoW factor to our café, dinner tables, events, and cooking classes.

The whole A Pot of Courage (APOC) idea came about while a team of Ballarat-based women from 14 different cultures were about to launch their book It Takes Courage – sharing secret recipes and stories from our homelands. That was mid-2018. I was working at Women’s Health Grampians as the Intercultural Engagement Advisor, and had the privilege of running full-day sessions with these remarkable women each week.

I looked forward to every Thursday, where we shared stories, knowledge and lived experiences, while learning more about a range of topics including respectful relationships, women’s health, literacy and numeracy skills, and change-making. A highlight of each Thursday was lunchtime – I’m not going to lie! The most enticing aromas, colours and flavours, all laid out for us to enjoy. We shared secret recipes and stories from our homelands, and often hosted guests. While discussing “barriers”, the frustrating experiences of trying to find employment and create financial freedom came up…time and time again.

For many of the women in the room, there had been multiple job applications, very few responses, and almost zero interviews. Women who had years of experience working in hospitality in their homelands, or had grown up cooking for large numbers of people, women itching to work, and women who could cook dishes that no-one else in this region could offer.

It was time to bring it all together – roll with the success of our book, draw on the unique backgrounds and offerings that the team could bring to the public, and support the team to create their own employment, training, and income structure.

Enter Melinda and Paul Tant. A couple with so much expertise and generosity of spirit and knowledge. With Melinda’s extensive experience as a Chef and Administrator, combined with Paul’s wealth of experience in Accounting plus a genuine interest in the often-not-measured social impact that can be created through social enterprises – we were in great hands to get our Incorporated Association

and Charity status in place.

We then negotiated a pop-up café space at Ballarat Community Health (Lucas), where we test drove our menu, recruited a team of volunteers to support our core team, trained and employed cooks and baristas….and grew. We grew much quicker than expected, which lead to negotiating a larger space through BGT at Barkly Square, Ballarat. This has been our new “home” since February 2020, where our “housemates” are 19 other organisations.   

Just a few weeks after we moved into Barkly Square, COVID-19 hit, forcing us to close our doors.  While the cafe had to remain closed, we designed an online menu and delivery system, which absolutely took off!  Our customer base actually increased through the pandemic - as we delivered delicious dinners, Latin American banquets, Malaysian street food experiences across Ballarat.  Once restrictions were lifted, we welcomed our customers through the doors again, and continued to build. 

Not only does our cafe provide direct opportunities for local women, we also support a number of artists and makers like South Sudanese artist Nyagak Yang, and small businesses, A Tuk, Stylish Greenery and Mat Tetni.

We have a strong “empowered women empower women” philosophy, and are the first truly Intercultural café in Ballarat  - Australia’s first Intercultural City.

And when we say, “we change lives”, we genuinely mean it.

Shiree Pilkinton -  Founder, and Co-ordinator