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  • James Murphy's cafe is a meeting place for East Melbourne's diverse community. (SBS)Source: SBS
KereKere Green is a community café in Melbourne that’s helping to save its migrant workers, by making and selling healthy soup and giving free servings to locals struggling with the impacts of COVID-19.
By
Sandra Fulloon

17 Jun - 1:10 PM 

Adriana Urrunaga, like thousands of hospitality workers who are ineligible for government benefits, needs a job to survive. She arrived on a student visa seven years ago, from Lima’s capital Peru and is trying to gain permanent residency.

The early childhood education graduate is working at KereKere Green, a café in the Fitzroy Gardens run by James Murphy.

“James has supported me for so long,” Ms Urrunaga told Small Business Secrets.

“He's still open because he really deeply cares about each of us.”

“We are trying to save as many jobs as we can,” Mr Murphy explains.

“Our ‘essential soup’ is really about giving a job to workers that may have otherwise been stood down.”  

“And for every 10 soups sold, we are giving one free to someone in need. So every tenth customer will get a little voucher to give to someone one the street or someone in their community, to support those people in need.”

“We're focusing on vegetarian soups, like spicy chick pea with tomato and capsicum. I want to make it accessible as for as many people as possible.”

Mr Murphy grew up in Fiji, and says the name KereKere Green derives from a traditional custom of giving.

“’KereKere’ means that a relative may request something and it must be willingly given with no expectation of repayment,” the former social worker explained.

“So everything we do is really [based on] that culture of sharing and I wanted to see that here in Melbourne. “

KereKere Green started as a coffee cart at The University of Melbourne in 2007. In 2014, a new iteration opened in the Fitzroy Gardens Visitors Centre next to Cook’s Cottage.

“We began with just $1500 and its grown from there,” Mr Murphy said.

During the pandemic, the café’s ivy-framed windows continued to serve light meals and takeaway coffee, as well as soup.

The many loyal patrons are invited to vote for community favours, giving unexpected gifts to people who are struggling.

“We hosted a child’s birthday party, and we put together a care package which we sent off to hospital,” Mr Murphy explains.

KereKere Green is also a vibrant meeting place for East Melbourne’s diverse community.

“We're a small cafe with a giant heart both in our offer, but a literal giant heart also in the café,” he explains.

“What we're doing is finding ways to connect with our community. We really want to see ourselves as part of the fabric.”

The Victorian Government is working to help its 640,000 small businesses, as part of a $1.7 billion Economic Survival and Jobs package.

Financial support includes rent relief in government buildings, deferment of land tax payments, payment of outstanding supplier invoices and the waiver of liquor licencing fees.

Businesses with payrolls between $650,000 and $3 million are also offered full payroll tax refunds for this financial year.

As well Business Victoria is providing advice, updates and support. For details visit www.business.vic.gov.au

“Having a service like Business Victoria where you can find all the relevant information on various topics in a convenient way, is really a wonderful resource to have,” James Murphy said.

He plans to continue serving takeaway as the cafe slowly reopens under revised COVID-19 rules.

“Our staff would agree, that the one thing that drives them to be here, is being so proud of the work that we do.

“And a real sense of giving back to the community,” he said.