• New barista Chea Gardiner at work. (Wheelly Good Coffee)Source: Wheelly Good Coffee
Wheelly Good Coffee's new venture gives Indigenous youth a chance to skill up and build networks.
Kylie Walker

18 Aug 2017 - 2:42 PM  UPDATED 18 Aug 2017 - 3:09 PM

A eye-catching mobile coffee cart decorated by Melbourne Aboriginal artist Brent Watkins will be serving up a more than coffee after its official launch today. 

Social enterprise Wheelly Good Coffee's newly-decorated mobile coffee cart will operate on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, outside the Melbourne Aboriginal Youth Sport & Recreation Co-operative (MAYSAR). 

An initiative of youth charity White Lion, Wheelly Good Coffee already operates one coffee outlet at Melbourne's Docklands, providing training and support for at-risk and other youth. 

The new cart at MAYSAR aims to help Indigenous young people build a better future for themselves. The cart will serve Five Senses coffee as well as snacks featuring native ingredients prepared by another Indigenous social enterprise, Mission Australia’s Charcoal Lane restaurant. Trainee baristas will be mentored by participants from Wheelly Good Coffee’s Docklands outlet, sent to Five Senses coffee’s barista training academy, supported by youth workers and given the opportunity to qualify for formal trade certification.

The new cart was painted by Melbourne performer Brent Watkins (part of culture evolves), a Gunai Kurnai man. "The art is my side thing - my main passion is dancing, hip hop and traditional [Aboriginal], and the didgeridoo."

Watkins played the didgeridoo and performed a smoking ceremony at the official launch of the new cart today.

The design, painted over five days, captures past and present.

"The back represents the Kulin nation, which is the five different tribes from the Melbourne region and the outskirts of Melbourne. On the front, the u-shapes in the centre represent elders teaching culture to children. On either side, in the smaller circles are men and women - men on the left and women on the right. The hand represents today, the new generation," Watkins tells SBS. The circles shows men with spears, and women with digging sticks and dishes. 

Watkins says the representation of Indigenous culture was central to his design. "We need to give kids culture so they can grow up to be strong leaders."

One of the new Indigenous trainees was at the launch today.  Chea Gardiner, 19, of Thornbury, is looking forward to working at Wheelly Good Coffee's new cart. 

“It’s one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my life so far,” he said. “It’s a really good program.”

Whitelion’s Wheelly Good Coffee Enterprise Manager Rob Brown says the relationships that develop in these programs are as important as the work skills. 

“It’s being around other people who ‘get it’ when it comes to the sorts of challenges they’re up against in terms of mental health or substance abuse, and who can both empathise and hold them to account,” says Brown. 

MAYSAR manager Troy Austin also welcomed the cart to Fitzoy, says it was good to see an initiative combining a chance for youths to learn new skills and also celebrate and promote their Indigenous heritage.

For now, the Wheelly Good Coffee cart will be operating at MAYSAR, at 184 Gertrude Street, from 7 to noon on weekdays, but we're told that if things go well, it could become a permanent cafe down the track. 

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