In 2010, a lady called Luz Restrepo arrived in Australia as a political refugee from Colombia. Her life was in tatters and she spoke no English. “I felt like a nobody,” she remembers. “Frightened, isolated and disempowered.”
But together with a group of 25 women in similar circumstances, she began making and selling crafts around Melbourne. A few years later, that group grew into SisterWorks, a social enterprise and business supporting female migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to become financially independent and happily settled in Australia.
These days there are around 171 sisters from 55 countries, producing everything from rope baskets and beaded earrings to beanies and bags. We especially love their traditional knitted children’s toys (the kind you usually only find at a country fete), because what little one doesn’t need a jaunty scarecrow or ballerina in their life?
All the sisters’ crafts are available on their online store, and at the occasional pop-up store, too. They’re also available for home parties, where they can teach you and your guests how to cook delicious meals from Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Hong Kong, Syria, Chile or Pakistan. Or you can have an African dance workshop with them instead. Which sounds like ridiculous amounts of fun.