A café run out of a construction container in Sydney’s southwest is giving disadvantaged youth a leg up to finding work
Large construction sites often come with a canteen, but the one serving up hot meals to hungry workers in the southwest suburb of Riverwood is one of a kind. Kick Start Café is staffed by young people who live locally in social housing. They spend up to a year there doing paid hospitality training and getting the confidence and skills they need to enter the workforce.
The social enterprise is run by property developer PAYCE, which is building social and private housing on the same estate as part of the Washington Park Riverwood renewal, but the park café is open to anyone who fancies dropping by for a coffee and a scone.
“We realised at the start of the project that youth unemployment and disadvantage was an issue,” says PAYCE’s general manager Dominic Sullivan.
When work began in 2015, unemployment in Riverwood stood at 35 percent.
“I’d heard of a social enterprise in Melbourne called Streat, which is a café staffed by homeless people – that gave me the idea of trying something like it on a construction site. I think it’s the first time it’s been done in Sydney and I’d love to see it expand throughout Australia,” Sullivan says.
Each of the ten trainees to date have been referred by the Riverwood Community Centre and are supervised by chef Shane Hillard during their shifts. He guides them as they prepare "typical tradie food" of beef or chicken burgers and schnitzel wraps. Trainees also bake everything onsite, including brownies and muffins.
“A lot of these kids haven’t had any opportunities at all – that’s why we take them on,” Hillard says.
He teaches the hands-on, practical parts of the Certificate III in Hospitality from within the four small walls of the shipping container-turned-café. The program also includes professional barista training, qualifications in serving alcohol and responsible gaming, plus first aid training and career guidance support.
Ravin Lotomau, 21, got involved with Kick Start in May and took to the course so well that he was asked to stay on to mentor new trainees. He now also works part-time as a youth worker and is keen to study marketing. He said the biggest change he saw in himself and other trainees was a stronger work ethic.
“When you’re in high school and you’re late, you get in trouble but it’s fine. If you turn up late to work it’s different. This is hospitality so we’re working with the public. I don’t know where else it gets more real.”
|Venue name:||Kick Start Café|
Cnr of Washington Avenue and Kentucky Rd
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 6.30am-2pm|