We like to call ourselves “Women of the World” (WoW)…  bringing our unique WoW factor to our café customers, dinner tables, markets, 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 Take 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 – alongside Ballarat Group Training (BGT) in the Four Corners Café at Barkly Square. This has been our new “home” since February 2020, where our “housemates” are 14 other organisations. Take a walk through Barkly Square on any given day and you get a sense of the diversity within this fabulous space. For us – we can prepare food for the café and for catering orders, we can run night café events, we can grow our retail arm (eg fabulous art works by artists such as Nyagak Yang, kokedamas by Lunar Creative and homewares and accessories by A Tuk). Nyibol Deng and Mary Deng are part of the A Pot of Courage family (see their chapter in our book), and have also established their own business “A Tuk”. Their sewing space is also at Barkly Square.

When we say “we change lives”, we actually mean it. We have a strong “empowered women empower women” philosophy, and are the first truly Intercultural café in Ballarat (Australia’s first Intercultural City). Keep up to date with our news on Instagram and Facebook.

Shiree Pilkinton, Founder, and Co-ordinator


Shiree Pilkinton

p: 0438 871 503