Cultural Healing: How one suburban market is building bridges with food

It’s become somewhat of a cliché to say that food brings people together. But for many of Australia’s recent migrants, food really can provide a way of sharing their culture and maintaining an emotional link to the homeland.

This Saturday, the Addison Road community centre in Marrickville will host a night market showing off the food, craft and music of some of these people. Food from a wide variety of countries including Liberia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Colombia and Iran will be dished up to hungry diners.

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According to the event organisers – a joint project between the Addison Road Community Centre Organisation (ARCCO), and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Surviors (STARTTS) – their aim is to ‘bring cultures together and support the small businesses of recent migrants and refugees’.

I’m planning to frame my piece against the ongoing refugee issue, a topic regularly covered in the Australian media. Just this week the PNG Supreme Court ruled the Manus Island detention centre as unconstitutional, making it a likely political battleground in the upcoming election and increasing the newsworthiness and relevance of my feature.

As various commentators and academics have noted, coverage of refugees in Australia is so often dehumanising (Bleiker et. al. 2013). We’re so used to reading about faceless boat people, crowded detention centres and the huge numbers fleeing war and conflict that it’s easy to lose track of the human side of the refugee issue. I also think its worthwhile to sometimes focus on more positive stories that cut through the doom and gloom.

My story will hopefully act as a success story that instills hope and optimism rather than fear in the reader.

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On location, I plan to do a few quick interviews with various stallholders. I expect they’ll be quite busy, so I’d also like to exchange mobile numbers and emails to organise a face-to-face or phone interview with one of the interested parties further down the track. This will allow me to hear their story as a recent migrant or refugee, to trace what they’ve put on the plate back to its origin, and to ask them about the connection between food, culture, and their new home in Australia.

I’d also like to organise an interview with the organiser of the market for a wider perspective, that looks towards the future of the event. My questions for this interviewee will provide valuable quotes for framing it in the wider refugee issue.

With more than 3,000 people attending and another 14,000 ‘interested’, the event is likely to draw a big crowd. Combined with the naturally photogenic nature of a food market, this story will be perfect for the online medium. As the iPhone camera is almost useless at night (the event goes from 4-9pm), I’ll bring along a digital SLR camera to take some good quality, high-resolution photos, which I plan to embed as a gallery.

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This feature would be ideal for websites such as the Guardian, Vice, or ABC Online who target a more ‘progressive’ and often younger, more politically engaged audience.

References: 

Bleiker, R., Campbell, D., Hutchison, E., & Nicholson, X. (2013). The visual dehumanisation of refugees. Australian Journal of Political Science, 48(4), 398-416.

 Word count: 521

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