For most of us, the uncomfortable feeling that creeps in when you share a social justice status (linking a petition or an article, or writing a strongly-worded open letter, as is the fashion) is accompanied by the thought: is this enough? Am I keyboard warrior? How can I effect real change?
The couple behind this Richmond cafe might be able to help you out with that. Jane and Francois Marx are the husband and wife team from Long Street Coffee and their aim is to bring you coffee and bring jobs to refugees. But making the transition from social justice keyboard warrior to real-life warrior is not an easy feat, nor is it cheap. Long Street Coffee is the product of a three-year long journey. They've been the worthy recipients of an Australian Women's Weekly grant, successful Pozible campaign and generous community donations from everyone from photographers to stonemasons to get them on their feet.
The community response to the enterprise, which trains refugees over a six-month period and helps them find ongoing work, has been overwhelmingly positive — and a breath of fresh air in the face of Australia's refugee laws.
"I think that we're seeing the backlash against the hostility towards refugees," says Jane. "We are part of a larger movement that opposes the overwhelming hostility from the media and punitive measures from the government. In the face of all that, there's a movement of people saying you are not representing us as a nation; we want to be a place that welcomes refugees."
Jane says that while there's a big risk in setting up any small business, and particularly in employing untrained staff, Long Street Coffee is not a charity. Jane and Francois have 20 years combined experience in the industry and understand what it means to be a competitive small business. The cafe is a hybrid: part social justice enterprise and part booming small business with its finger on the pulse.
"Part of the mission with Long Street was to be able to employ people with a refugee background who wouldn't otherwise be able to get jobs. And part of the scaremongering that comes from the government and the media is coming from ignorance. People don't actually know refugees but if they were able to see the people in the boats as oppose to the boat itself… If you could go to place that and be served coffee by a refugee and hear their stories, you would see that they are people. We want to break down the stigma. We didn't see that 'fair go' being extended to the refugee community. It is only a fair if it applies to everyone. Everyone who lives here should be able to fulfil their potential and realise their dreams."
Get down to Long Street Coffee and do your part in showing these total legends some hard-earned support.