The Community Café Dialogues 2012 (CCD) were organised and conducted by PaCSIA workers Serge Loode and Ally Wakefield. Project partners were Brisbane City Council (BCC), Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland (ECCQ) and Griffith University Multi-Faith Centre. BCC assisted with invitations, contact database, paid for the catering of the events and provided the PA system for the café events. ECCQ also assisted in the promotion of the events. Griffith Multi-Faith Centre assisted with promotion and will continue the community cafés in the second half of 2012 as part of their Multicultural Affairs Queensland grant project.

The CCD team organized and facilitated 6 community cafés and the launch event at the BCC Harmony Day Celebration. Overall the cafés (including the launch event) were attended by ca. 300 people from more than 24 different cultural backgrounds. The cafés were promoted through direct contact with community leaders and associations, promotion through MDA, QPASTT, QPS, QACC, personal networks of previous participants, free ads in local newspapers, YouTube video and Facebook page, SMS text messages and flyers at various multicultural and Indigenous events such as World Refugee Day and NAIDOC day and official invitations to elected community leaders and elders. The CCD team also worked closely with Nancy Bamaga and Leilani Coolwell from Nguin Warrup/Black Drum Productions to liaise with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders.

While not all cafés were well attended the participant numbers increased with each café and the last celebration café at Moorooka Bowls Club on 28 July 2012 was attended by more than 70 people. Feedback from participants was outstanding and participants at the last cafés clearly voiced their requests for the project to continue. Participants built new and maintained previous relationships, developed significant insights into each other’s cultures and traditions and discussed similarities and differences. Some participants from the previous Diverse Brisbane project in which the community cafés were piloted commented that some of the 2012 cafés were even better. The cafés served as an opportunity for a small number of community detention refugees to experience a welcoming and constructive community in Brisbane. Three cafés also provided an opportunity to welcome a group of Bhutanese refugees who had arrived recently (some only 5 days before the café) in Australia and had no connections to other communities so far. One Australian participant connected with the group from Bhutan and subsequently assisted the newcomers with English translation and with support for a job application. A group of students from the Master of International Studies (Peace and Conflict) program at the University of Queensland joined the project and assisted the CCD team as volunteers in the planning and facilitation of the cafés. This provided the students with unique opportunities to connect with Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and migrant community elders. The cafés were also attended by community development workers from MDA, QPASTT, Contact Inc., Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Commonwealth Department of Human Services, BCC, Department of Communities and others. In addition the project included a number of student ambassadors and international students who also assisted in the preparation of the cafés and were provided with the opportunity to interact with community elders.

Venues for cafés included the Annerley/Moorooka Senior Citizens Club and the Zillmere Senior Citizens and District Club. In particular the Zillmere club members actively participated in the cafés and promoted the events to their club. The venues were highly suitable in terms of space, accessibility and cost/value. Catering for the cafés was provided by Mu’ooz Eritrean Restaurant, Nundah Community Enterprises Cooperative and Saté House.

The last Community Café Dialogue of 2012 was held on 28 July 2012 at Moorooka Bowls Club. Aunty Margret Lawton acknowledged the traditional owners and Danny Doyle played the didgeridoo. The café part itself was shorter than previous cafés with more emphasis on celebration and performace. The South Sudanese Acholi Traditional Girls Dance Group performed as well. People were seated at tables of 6-8 with two rounds of café dialogue.  The event was very well received with many participants expressing that they wanted the project to continue. Some participants from the North Side came and 3 police liaison officers also attended.

PaCSIA is currently looking for funding to provides community cafés on an ongoing basis. Thank you to everyone who participated. If you want to connect with the Community Cafés and stay up to date, check out our Facebook page.