The Great Australian Curry is throwing light on the good work being done in Asian countries by Opportunity International – a micro-finance non-profit asking us to cook a curry to provide small loans to mothers carving out a better future for their children.
Sophie Knox

27 Sep 2016 - 8:14 AM  UPDATED 27 Sep 2016 - 3:17 PM

Tell any Aussie you’re cooking a curry and most will plead for a seat at the table. This vibrant dish has seduced our nation since the first immigrants of the Indian subcontinent and other South-East Asian countries arrived many moons ago, armed with a rainbow of herbs and spices and a library of recipes that have become highly rotated standards in our kitchens.

So when a micro-finance non-profit organisation was looking for a way to encourage Australians to raise money for Asian families living in poverty, curry was the obvious choice. CEO of Opportunity International Australia, Robert Dunn, describes the initiative: “Each year we honour Anti-Poverty Week (16-22 October) with a food-related campaign and this year we decided to celebrate the vibrancy of the food in the countries in which we work – India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Curry is a staple of these countries and is also loved by Aussies,” he says.

The campaign is called The Great Australian Curry, and it’s coming to life in homes and restaurants in October and November. How can you get involved? Turn up the heat in your kitchen by cooking a curry for friends, host a curry cook-off at work or head to your favourite restaurant. Create your own fundraising page and ask your loved ones to donate to the cause. Jump onto social media to share your curry magic with the world and tag Opportunity International Australia so they can share the curry love.

Where does the money go? “Every dollar raised provides loans to families in Asia, giving them the tools to earn regular incomes and leave poverty behind. By helping a mother start a food shop or open a samosa stand, they can earn a regular income, invest in their childrens’ futures and strengthen their communities. Once the loans are repaid, they are lent to another family,” says Robert Dunn.

Opportunity International was established 44 years ago in Australia and is now represented globally with operations in eight countries. It assists millions of families living in poverty by empowering them with loans to kick off their own business.

The direction of these loans flows predominantly towards mothers (94 per cent of loans go to women), because “mothers use a hand up from Opportunity to free themselves from poverty. They love their families and want to create a future free of poverty for their children. They are hard working, creative and entrepreneurial in the same way as Aussies and work hard to achieve their dreams,” says Robert Dunn.

Archana Ravi was inspired to lift Indian families out of poverty when she discovered The Great Australian Curry on social media. She accompanied her husband when he moved to Sydney for work from Chenai in southern India in 2013. Fortunately, Archana is a qualified accountant and has rarely had to struggle to make ends meet, but she knows plenty of fellow Indians who have.

A client of Opportunity’s Microfinance partner, Shikar, from the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Archana reveals, “I’m a believer that Indian women would not only use the money to develop their own business, they would also make sure their children are properly fed and educated. This, in turn, would ensure future generations progress and the community around them, including men, are inspired.”

So what is Archana cooking? “We’re helping mothers in India, so I’ll be cooking Yellow dhal, which is very close to my heart because it’s what my mum makes for me. She’s still back home in India,” reflects Archana. “I will also be cooking paneer butter masala – my favourite curry – for my friends.”

Head to Indonesia, and the curries are coloured with vibrant yellow spices and creamy coconut milk, like the traditional dish Kari ayam. It’s a recipe Lydia Awang, who is from Sumba Island in eastern Indonesia, has cooked many times over. Her life is a fine example of micro-finance empowering families to make a new start. Two years ago, Lydia’s husband died suddenly and she was left to care for her children, the home and the finances with barely a penny to her name. Opportunity International invested in Lydia’s future with a small loan that enabled her to establish her own shop, and since then a sustainable income stream has emerged and the future for Lydia’s children is looking bright. This is her story:

Back in Australia, Stephanie Rice is bringing an Olympic flavour to the launch of The Great Australian Curry when she participates in a curry cook-off with former Australian Test Cricketer Michael Kasprowicz on the night of Thursday October 6, at Nilgiri’s Feast of India, 283 Military Road, Cremorne. You can watch her champion this initiative here and book tickets here to meet Stephanie and enjoy a global feast with specially curated food stations.

So what will you cook in The Great Australian Curry? Take inspiration from SBS’s collection of curry recipes or make a booking at your favourite curry pit stop now. 

Love the story? Follow the author Sophie Knox on Instagram or Facebook

Looking for inspiration?
Indian chicken curry with cauliflower rice

Serve this richly spiced, creamy chicken curry on a bed of paleo-friendly cauliflower ‘rice’. Finishing it off with a drizzle of coriander pesto adds another dimension of taste and texture.

Sri Lankan goat curry

This simple curry turns an excellent deep yellow colour from the turmeric. The shallots and green chilli are added near the end, giving you a lovely, sweet crunchiness from the onions and a fresh heat from the chilli.

Northern Thai curry (gaeng hang lay)

There are as many versions of this dish as there are northern Thai cooks. Some season with soy, some use shrimp paste, while some leave out the chillies in favour of black peppercorns. This is best made at least a day ahead and it freezes well, too.