Gardener's Lodge Café

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Gardener's Lodge Café

Bush food, big city – an Aboriginal café joins the ranks of Camperdown’s coffee corps

For Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, securing the future of Sydney’s Indigenous youth means access to education and employment. “Education is key, if you have an education you have a choice, you have a voice. But equally there’s no point training anybody if you haven’t got anywhere to place them into a job,” she says.

Aunty Beryl, an Aboriginal elder of the Gamilaroi people of northwest NSW, knows first hand how limited employment for Aboriginal people has been. Growing up in '50s and '60s Australia, “you either became a cleaner or a waitress – or a bartender in later years because before that you weren’t allowed into the hotels. That was the only work around then for Aboriginal people,” says Aunty Beryl.

Determined to provide the younger generations with greater opportunities, Aunty Beryl set up the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality Training College in Eveleigh in 2006 as well as a catering company where her students could get industry experience. And with a mind to expand the employment options for her graduates, Aunty Beryl, along with friend and fellow teacher Wendy Johnsson, won a tender from the City of Sydney to set up a café in August last year. They opened in the old Edmund Blacket-designed Gardeners Lodge building in Victoria Park. “I was teaching with Wendy at Yaama and she had tears in her eyes. I thought something must be wrong with her dog so I went over to check and that’s when she told me that we had won the tender. That was my 70th birthday – I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

The tender included an Aboriginal Employment Strategy and the café now has two indigenous trainee chefs, plus floor staff and baristas. “Our chef here is so good with the trainees that he’s having the day off. He has built up their self esteem and confidence so much that they take over the kitchen on Wednesdays.”

In addition to training and employing Indigenous staff, the café also showcases native Australian ingredients in dishes such as a three-cheese filo with spinach and warrigal greens, buttermilk and wattle seed pancakes, and a kangaroo and stout pie.

“Bush foods are very similar to Chinese ingredients in that you can put them into both a sweet or a savoury dish – things like munthari berries, rye berries and quandongs go so well with pork and chicken or you can make them into a syrup or jam. It’s the tartness that makes them versatile.”

Moving forward, Aunty Beryl hopes the café also operates as something of a tourist attraction. “This park has a lot of Aboriginal history. The pond is a traditional waterhole of the Gadigal people and there were kangaroos in this park once. Plus this is one of the oldest buildings in Sydney and the original gateway to the University. People will come to see that just like we got to Rome and go to see the Vatican and the Colosseum.”

By: Emily Lloyd-Tait

Posted:

Venue name: Gardener's Lodge Café
Contact:
Address: Gardener's Lodge Cafe
Victoria Park, Corner of Broadway and City Road
Camperdown
2050
Opening hours: Daily 8am-4pm
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