After arriving in Australia as a refugee, Hamed Allah-Yari studied English at VU Polytechnic, developing the written and verbal English skills he needed to run his own business. Hamad now owns and manages Cafe Sunshine & SalamaTea, a social enterprise that trains and employs refugees in Melbourne’s west.
“I was born and grew up in Tehran, Iran. When I was 19 I became an atheist and began communicating with other young atheists. The religious police found out about our meetings and came to my restaurant to arrest me. To escape persecution, I decided to leave my country.
In 2012 I arrived in Australia and for the first two years I had no work or study rights. To fill my time and keep my mind busy I started volunteering in the kitchen at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). After my work rights were granted, I got a job running Persian cooking classes at Free to Feed and eventually I got a job managing the kitchen at ASRC.
I decided to study English for Academic Purposes to improve my written and verbal skills. I chose VU Polytechnic because I had heard good things about it from my friends and it was close to home.
The course has given me more confidence, especially in writing and grammar. We had a great teacher who always explained everything in detail. I was also happy with the course’s flexibility because I was able to work and do other things. I learnt the skills to be able to communicate effectively and really feel like part of the local community.
I have just opened my first Persian café-restaurant in Sunshine, Café Sunshine and & SalamaTea. I serve traditional dishes from my country and my own contemporary Persian-Australian fusion dishes. We only employ refugees, teaching them cooking, waiting and barista skills.
I’m so proud to have my own Persian restaurant again, eight years after I had to leave my restaurant in Iran. My goal is to build this enterprise, then open another one in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Maybe one day I’ll expand the business interstate.”