Immigration

The Sydney bakery equipping refugees with the skills to thrive in Australia

The Bread and Butter Project team. Source: Sally Tsoutas

At The Bread and Butter Project, refugees and asylum seekers are being given work experience to help them succeed in their new home.

When Patil Aghazarian first arrived in Australia, she says she felt the disillusionment and unease that can come with resettling in a foreign country.

Alongside her parents and two sisters, Patil sought safety and security after fleeing war-torn Syria. 

“I wasn’t that happy. So the first month we stayed at home, wanted to sleep, didn’t want to go out or do anything," she told SBS News.

Patil Aghazarian at The Bread and Butter Project
Patil Aghazarian at The Bread and Butter Project.
Sally Tsoutas
 

“It was different. You don’t know where you are. It’s a different language, different people. All that we did know, was that it was safe.” 

But Patil would soon feel part of a new community as a vital team member in a fast-paced and vibrant kitchen.

A fresh start

The Bread and Butter Project in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville has been equipping refugees and asylum seekers with skills to start a new life in Australia since 2013. 

Paul Allam, co-owner of the popular Bourke Street Bakery, began the social enterprise with wife Jessica Grynberg and business partner David McGuiness after a volunteering stint overseas teaching artisan breadmaking to refugees in Thailand. 

The paid traineeships see participants graduate with a formal TAFE Certificate II in baking, but they also learn social and language skills from a visiting panel of volunteers.

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Small Business Secrets visits The Bread and Butter Project in 2016.
Small Business Secrets visits The Bread and Butter Project in 2016.

Dan Grynberg, board member of The Bread and Butter Project said: “We are motivated by the mission to help train refugees and asylum seekers and help them find meaningful work and pathways to successful lives in Australia".

The project partners with refugee agencies and job provider networks to recruit refugees.

“We try not to take people who would have gotten job offers anyway. Which would be easy. We try to take people who will benefit the most,” he said.

“We currently have a 100 per cent track record of participants graduating from our program, finding sustainable employment and no longer needing access to the Newstart allowance.” 

Paving the way to employment 

Patil discovered the program with the help of her own job provider shortly after arriving in Australia.

“It was hard. We weren’t that experienced. Our English wasn’t that good and we had no qualifications or certificates,” she said.

They aren’t just employers, they are more like family, like friends.

- Patil, Graduate baker

Having graduated last month, she now works for the bakery as a full-time employee and says the environment is very supportive.

“They aren’t just employers there, they are more like family, like friends. Whatever happens we just one. One team”.

As well as friends, Patil also met her partner, Salwan, at the bakery and the pair hope to open their own business one day. 

Patil Aghazarian
Patil met her fiance Salwan at the bakery.
Sally Tsoutas

Currently, the bakery’s revenue from sales covers 90 per cent of the costs of training. But Mr Grynberg says eventually making a profit would allow the social enterprise to train more refugees.

“We would expand to other parts of Sydney, to other parts of the state. We’ve had interest in duplicating or sharing the model in other parts of Australia," he said. 

A business model to be shared

Alongside Patil, Mr Grynberg will share the bakery’s story at the Social Good Summit Australia in Sydney this weekend. The one-day conference examines the impact of social good initiatives around the world.

He hopes businesses will be inspired to trial similar models.

“At the end of the day, there’s a limit to the number of people who will want to become artisanal bakers. We think we’re part of a much bigger movement," he said. 

“We think there’s a real opportunity for people with business experience to find opportunities to set up something sustainable while also offering social benefit. We feel as though we’re proven a model and we’re excited to share it.” 

Dan Grynberg and Patil Aghazarian will share The Bread & Butter Project story at The Social Good Summit Australia on 10 August in Sydney.

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