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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11704


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (16:05): I am very pleased today to speak about a Brotherhood of St Laurence initiative, the Stepping Stones program, which has worked to empower refugee and migrant women towards entrepreneurship since its inception in 2011. A couple of weeks ago I met some of the current Stepping Stones participants, all of whom reside in my electorate. The women I met come from many different countries, including Japan, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Sudan, just to name a few.

Their skills and business plans are just as diverse. From opening an Afghan restaurant to importing clothes, food or handicrafts from a number of different countries, the range of ideas presented by these women was very broad and impressive. One participant, Nafisa Nazari, hopes to import a native vegetable of Afghanistan called gandana. Gandana, I am told, is used in many different dishes and is not available in Australia.

Nafisa's business plan to import gandana reminded me very much of the Greek migrants from the inner cities of Melbourne, my parents included, who would go to Broadmeadows to pick and eat horta, which is a wild weed growing in abundance in Broadmeadows. Today, it is on the menus of many Greek restaurants in Melbourne and elsewhere. All the women I met are entrepreneurial. There is no victim mentality in this group of women. They are all talented, confident and intelligent women who want to contribute. I want to thank Kathy Kroes, the coordinator of the wonderful Stepping Stones program. I congratulate her and all the women for the work that they do.