Behind the tinted glass front of Parliament on King, a café and catering company in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, are thousands of stories.
There are the stories in the books that line the floor-to-ceiling, room-length bookcases, and then there are the stories of the people who work there: refugees and people seeking asylum.
Stories with beginnings in warzones across the world, all with endings in Australia.
As for the story of how Parliament got its start, that starts when founder Ravi Prasad’s daughter was born… and very nearly died.
It was one of those moments that makes you stop and reflect on life, and Ravi asked himself if his work as an advertising exec meant anything. The answer was ‘No.’
So he packed it in, bought a shop on King Street and started training-up recently settled refugees who were without material possessions, social connections or language skills.
Ravi was determined that Parliament would be more than just a training ground. It would be a community hub, and a genuinely good café – one that produced baristas who could go off and find work in Sydney’s most demanding kitchens.
“It’s small. But it’s real. When you sit down with somebody, at a dinner table or here, and you meet them, and talk to them, you get to know them as a human being.”
Hani Abdile, who fled Somalia when she was 17, remembers Ravi’s tough-love training.
“I make coffee, he pour it down the sink.”
“I make another coffee, he pour it down the sink.”
“I make another coffee, he pour it down the sink again.”
“On the fourth time, he said, ‘This is good.’
“He wants a perfect latte.”
Ravi doesn’t pretend that what he’s doing can fix all of Australia’s problems when it comes to employment opportunities and community integration for refugees.
“It’s small. But it’s real."
Parliament On King is as much a learning opportunity for his staff as it is for his customers who come to learn their stories.
"When you sit down with somebody, at a dinner table or here, and you meet them, and talk to them, you get to know them as a human being.”