Coffee with An Extra Shot of Esteem
by Peta Hen
Being part of a community is vital for anyone, especially so when you arrived from another country. We spoke to Ren McGrath, from volunteer organisation CityNetworks, about how a new Hobart community network cafe, Esteem Coffee, is breaking down cultural barriers, one esteem’ing cup at a time.
Tell us about Esteem Coffee. Esteem Coffee is a networking dream! In a capital city that is growing quickly, the old saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, feels as though it has never rung louder. Tasmania ranks highest of the Australian states to hire via word-of-mouth. This can make for a tricky beginning in a new town, especially if English isn’t your first language or there are cultural differences. Big picture, Esteem Coffee aims to be a conduit, mitigating much of those initial connection issues. We are in a unique position of having the ability to refer to an extensive platform of organisations and private parties with the ability to assist and liaise with people who have burning questions. We want to encourage and assist in building community.
What inspired the cafe and how has the reception from the community been? The hunger to be something different, the desire to offer a safe space for questions that people think may be too small to ask. How many wonderful coffee shops does Hobart have? Plenty. But, how many can you walk into and ask the barista to sit down and have a chat with you or ask for someone to help you read paperwork you need to complete or ask to display art from your hometown on the other side of the world?
Steven Baxter and Kelvin Smith were inspired to bring this café to life when they saw the potential behind building the esteem of valuable members of our community who are otherwise often sidelined due to their place of birth and initial communication barriers. We have received an overwhelming amount of support from the general public and are incredibly grateful for the openness with which our idea has been welcomed.
How can migrants use the cafe? We have three resident artists, whose work is both displayed and available for purchase. Additionally, we have an Eritrean cook, Ababa, who aims to begin stocking Eritrean cuisine with us in the future. We also have several volunteers who are working with us to expand their hospitality skills and conversational English.
What do you hope in the future for Esteem Coffee? We naturally hope to see this space grow to incorporate more small businesses from the migrant community, artists, chefs, musicians and more. We want this space to emanate warmth, welcome and helpfulness. The dream is to have the space taken over by someone who needs a helping hand making the dream of running a café in Tasmania come to life. If you or someone you know would like to get involved, check out Esteem Coffee on Facebook or pop in for a coffee at 286 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, from 7:30am-12pm.