The Sorghum Sisters was born in the kitchen of Carlton Primary School in 2005. It evolved from the need expressed by the African community in Carlton Housing Estate to find creative ways of surmounting their barriers to employment and social engagement. A series of consultations highlighted the strong passion and skills for cooking by the African women, seeding the idea of establishing a local catering social enterprise specialising in African cuisine.
The initial project was funded by the Department for Victorian Communities (DVC), now known as the Department for Planning and Community Development (DPCD), the Sorghum Sisters was a collaborative endeavour between AMES Australia, Carlton Primary School and Horn of Africa Communities Network (HACN).
The pioneering Sorghum Sisters comprise of Siti Ibrahim, Nuria Khalil and Rahma Ibrahim, all of whom were refugees from the Horn of Africa. Ten years later with new sisters and a growing market for multicultural food in Melbourne they run a thriving catering business.
Nuria Khalil came from Ethiopia in 1996. She worked in hotels in Somalia and Kenya prior to settling in Australia. Nuria was unemployed and caring for her four children at the time she joined the Sorghum Sisters. Equipped with determination to work and a brief work experience in an African restaurant in Footscray, Nuria embraced the challenge of being part of the establishment of the Sorghum Sisters.
Rahma Ibrahim came to Australia in 1995 from Eritrea. She worked as a sales assistant and dressmaker in Saudi Arabia and Eritrea before settling in Australia with her family. Rahma, the eldest of the three Sorghum Sisters is a consistent meticulous worker and takes great pride in her job. The injera bread specialist amongst the three, Rahma has played a key role in making the Sorghum Sisters a famous destination for injera bread to local Carlton African residents.
Souzet Yacoub came from Egypt to Australia in 1998. She met her husband here and had 4 children. She spent the next 10 years as a full time mother. In 2010, ready to get into the workforce she approached AMES Australia who offered her a certificate II in Hospitality with Sorghum Sisters. She completed this in 2011 and was offered a part-time position with the Sorghum Sisters. She has been an integral part of the kitchen since then, continuing to develop her skills and confidence.
The Sorghum Sisters is both a social enterprise and an employment training pathway program that provides practical skills and workplace experience. Refugee and migrant women come to Australia with many useful skills and talents, yet are often unsuccessful in securing stable employment. The Sorghum Sisters support people from multicultural backgrounds to gain experience in a workplace environment and develop confidence and self-esteem. This encourages greater social participation, increasing social cohesion and building safer communities.
Dur-é Dara OAM
Restaurateur and business woman Dur-é Dara is a well known identity in Melbourne with interest across a range of businesses and cultural organisations. Convener of the Victorian Women's Trust, where she works for gender equity and improving the status of women, she has established and managed a number of Melbourne's premier restaurants, and in 2005 was awarded the annual Restaurant and Catering Australia Lifetime Achievers Award for her contribution to the industry.
Sorghum Sisters is proud to have Dur-é Dara as the patron for the AMES Social Enterprises.