Supporting refugees through Christmas giving - AMES News Article

(Taken from AMES News)


Christmas is around the corner, meaning now is the time to make a difference. Gift consciously this Christmas and consider buying from refugee and migrant lead businesses.

We’ve chosen some of our favourites to start you off.

The Social Outfit

Cover yourself head to toe in bright loud prints made by refugee and migrant women at The Social Outfit. Women who walk through the doors of The Social Outfit have the opportunity to train in clothing production, retail trade, design and marketing all while developing existing and new skills while making money to pay the bills.

Volunteer turned retail, sales and marketing manager Timothy Jia Huei Goh said a gift purchase from The Social Outfit this Christmas will make an impact in a number of ways.

“It allows us to continue running all of the programs that we’ve run. We have our sewing School which is a community outreach program in which we teach refugee and migrant women to sew.”

“We also have a retail training program for young refugee and migrant women who are interested in a job in retail. That involves us taking three or four retail trainees every quarter. We pay them for their work, so it’s a earn and learn.”

“Through that program we’ve actually onboarded some of our current employees… it’s always about pathways for us. Kind of supporting them to be able to find their own voice and gain the confidence that they need to enter the Australian workforce.”

Timothy’s Christmas gift recommendation is the Heirloom Community print, a colourful and eclectic print designed in collaboration with the community.

“The theme was very much centred around family. We engaged five young refugee and migrant artists and emerging artists from the community.”

“The artists developed lots of different artworks so then with those artworks we turned them into a collage, which then ultimately we printed on to fabric. Now we’ve made this beautiful print.”

If all of that isn’t enough of an excuse to buy from The Social Outfit, consider their sustainable approach to fashion. Timothy said their garments use remnant fabrics that have been diverted from landfill, playing their part in reducing textile waste.

You can find the Heirloom community print along with several other collections on The Social Outfit website:


A not-for-profit social enterprise based in Melbourne that supports migrants, refugees and asylum seekers into employment, is what SisterWorks is known for.

“We’ve seen women form all sorts of life and we’ve worked with women from over 56 different countries. The main essence is to get these women economically empowered,” said community relationship lead at SisterWorks, Maria Chindis.

“In some cases, women just haven’t had the opportunity for employment or education in their countries of origin. In other cases, they’re highly qualified in their countries of origin but it’s not actually recognised here, which is quite a sad paradox. They sort of fall from the top of the ladder to the bottom.”

“That was the experience of our founder of SisterWorks.”

“We were founded in 2014 by Luz Restrepo who is a political asylum seeker that came to Australia from Colombia. She was highly established and worked in a very professional sphere within Colombia then moved here with a family and just fell to the bottom.”

At SisterWorks any woman no matter what her background is or qualifications are, can join workshops and programs said Maria.

“The women learn how to hand make eco-friendly products and reusable products such as bread bags, beeswax wraps and scented candles, there’s a whole load of different accessories and things like that.”

“Our women get back at least 50% of the profit from the product they produce and that goes directly into their pockets. In a lot of cases it’s their first income in Australia so it’s very empowering for these women to be receiving this income.”

“The remaining is reinvested into the broader support programs such as business mentoring and a variety of well-being workshops.”

Although the team at SisterWorks have been churning out masks for most of 2020 restrictions have eased just in time for Christmas and the women are back producing goods.

Maria recommends the range of hampers SisterWorks has on offer.

“They incorporate our label products that are all sustainable and eco-friendly and aim to reduce the use of single use plastic and paper. We also have a couple of wholesale partners with local businesses that give us their products to add to the hampers.”

Some of the partnerships to look forward to in the hampers include treats from the Mildura Chocolate Company who are a disability support service and Kakadu Plum, an indigenous brand making teas from native ingredients.

Another option Maria recommends is the range of jewellery and accessories from their Sisters products. SisterWorks supports women in creating their own micro businesses and sells their products through the SisterWorks retail store. 

You can find the whole range of products on The SisterWorks website:

The Chai Room

Bringing people together over a cup of Chai filled with nostalgic indigents from back home is how the Chai Room came about.

Founder of The Chai Room Fatema Khanbha moved from the United Kingdom to Australia in 2008 and started brewing tea to connect her to home.

Back home every Sunday would just be about having chai and a really traditional breakfast of Zanzibari bread which we would eat sitting on the floor all together said Fatema.

“When I came to Australia I brought that same ritual with me. I knew that was something that grounded me. I was quite overwhelmed coming here and leaving my family behind.”

Fatema started selling her Chai at the markets then moved to selling retail packs and now distributes her blends in a number of stores Australia wide. 

“Each of the chais I have discovered have been a part of my journey of the Indian diaspora,” Fatema said.

“We’ve got 10 blends. It starts off with the original ginger, which is a real traditional Indian Chai blend. Then it moves into the turmeric and the coconut nectar, which has got that East African Zanzibari influence, that’s where my parents were born.”

“Then I’ve started to use more of the native blend since I’ve settled here. So each chai has a different purpose and it’s actually helped me to settle in, create connections and build roots, which is really what our Indian heritage is all about.”

By purchasing your Christmas gift from The Chai Room not only will you support Fatema, but you’ll be supporting the various native ingredients that are bought from local suppliers.

“It’s really just trying to have that outward impact by using those local ingredients,” Fatema said.

“There’s no waste involved in terms of making the chai and there’s no excess or by-products that come from that, it’s all very much we use what we have.”

“Even when you use your tea leaves, they can also be recycled. A little goes a long way and it’s just very natural.”

This Christmas Fatema recommends the Hug in Box which includes a sample range of Chai with brewing instructions, perfect for someone wanting to try (or rather chai) it all!

Find all of The Chai Room products here:


Founded by 17-year-old businessman Fadi Abo, Clarcias is the one stop shop for all things skin care and beauty.

Born in Damascus Fadi fled as his dad was a journalist, targeted by the government. Fadi has lived in many different countries but has always managed to pursue entrepreneurial activities.

“I’ve always really loved business. How you can create something, transform it and change the lives of others by creating something so beautiful.”

“Clarcias was born out of my love for self-care and self-hygiene. I thought that the market was really missing three collections of what I believe is really the pinnacle of self-care: beauty, which includes our makeup brushes, skincare and teeth whitening.”

Clarcias places a focus on sustainability, so mother nature will thank you this Christmas.

“We have organic teeth whitening powder that’s made from organic coconut shavings. Also, the packaging for our organic toothbrushes are made from bamboo.”

Fadi recommends the Flaming Hot Brush Set as the perfect Christmas gift for your friends and family.

“It’s really taken off because of its different colours. It’s an ombre between the green and orange. It really helps people express themselves and it’s a full complete set, so it works for the professional and the amateur.”

You can find the brush set here as well as a range of other products:


After handmade gifts made that support migrant women? Go no further than PawPo. The store sits in the town of a Nhill where 10 per cent of the population is made up of refugees from the Myanmar- Thai border.

The women at PawPo come from Karen often with little English and no sewing skills, so PawPo runs a job ready program for the women. In this program the women learn to sew, monitor finances, implement pricing and advertise products.

You can find a huge range of handmade goods including a variety of bags, aprons and scarves.

Visit the PawPo website for more gift ideas:

Refugee Stories: In Their Own Words

With 30 interviews that are honest and raw, the voices of refugees and migrants who have made the gruelling journey to Australia shine through in the book.

Author Laurie Nowell has been a journalist and writer for over 25 years and now focuses his attention on the refugee and migrant sector.

Laurie said the book was aimed at building awareness about the reasons refugees come to Australia and the contributions they make.

“Many of the refugees who settle in Australia have experienced trauma, torture or the loss of loved ones. They bring with them memories, traditions, culture and history,” Laurie said.

“They also bring with them hopes, dreams and ambitions for their children. They are, by definition, resilient and ingenious people who have overcome challenges and dangers just to get here,” he said.

“Refugees have always, and still, have a lot to offer this country.”

All profits from the book go to AMES Australia who work with new arrivals to develop English language skills.

You can grab your copy here 

Social Studio 

Fashion school, clothing label, retail shop, textile printing studio, clothing manufacturer and community space, also known as The Social Studio. The Social Studio aims to empower refugees through education, employment, community engagement and social inclusion. This is achieved through a range of programs including, legal advice, counselling, tutoring, driving lessons as well as training in clothing production, retail and fashion.

The Social Studio line is all designed and made in their Melbourne based studio with ethical practices, including up-cycling of materials.

You can find a range of clothing and accessories via The Social Studio website:

Second Stitch

Coburg based not-for-profit social enterprise Second Stitch offers a range of products and services for all your fashion needs. From an online gift shop filled with handmade gifts by refugee and migrants to alteration services, Second Stitch has you covered this Christmas.

One thing that is unique to Second Stitch is the accredited training program they offer. Those who walk through the doors of the Second Stitch studio have the opportunity to undertake a Certificate III in Clothing and Textile Production.

Visit the Second Stitch website to shop:

ASRC Catering

Wanting to hang up the tea towel this Christmas and let the food be brought to you? Go no further than the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre Catering service.

The chefs behind your meals from ASRC Catering are members of the ASRC who are led and mentored by experienced chefs. This allows for the members to gain hands on work experience which in turn provides opportunity for future employment.

The ASRC has been in operation for 19 years and is Australia’s largest human rights organisation providing support to people seeking asylum. ASRC offers over 40 programs to support and empower asylum seekers.

All food from ASRC Catering is Vegetarian and the team of chefs are supported by an events team who will work with you on creating the perfect menu for your event.

Order now at:

Made by Many Hands

There is always one person that is impossible to buy a Christmas present for. Luckily Made by Many Hands is here to help. An online marketplace that features products made by migrant and refugee woman.

Through the online marketplace refugee women are empowered to pursue their entrepreneurial ventures while taking ownership of their profits. The marketplace is free to join with no fees, annual charges or marketing costs and the women retain 85% of their profits which is paid out immediately.

Made by Many Hands has just about everything so you are bound to find a Christmas goodie here. Explore the large variety of products including, home and living, food and cooking, clothing and accessories, health and wellbeing and experiences and services.

Find more at:


By Millie Spencer

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