Skip to main content

Cafes that give a fork

/ 04 Mar 2019
Running a small business can be a challenge but for these socially conscious businesses the bottom line isn’t the most important purpose.

Melbourne is thriving with social enterprise businesses that put people over profits - from disadvantaged youth to migrant communities.

South Melbourne institution St ALi has teamed up with coffee order app Skip to raise money on International Women's Day for Papua New Guinea's Marawaka Women's Project. The popular cafe will serve up Marawaka coffee at the Sensory Lab stores in Collins Street, Little Collins Street, and Bourke Street, and ST. ALi in South Melbourne on Friday 8 March from 7-10am. The coffee has been produced a group of young entrepreneurial women in PNG's Eastern Highlands who have overcome the odds to export coffee. The coffee will be available for $2 exclusively through the Skip app with all proceeds, along with in store donations, will go towards the Marawaka Women's Project. St ALi, 12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne; Sensory Lab Little Collins, 297 Little Collins St, Melbourne; Sensory Lab Rialto, Shop 9, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne; Sensory Lab Bourke St, Level 1 David Jones 310 Bourke St, Melbourne; Sensory Lab Collins St, Shop 1, 30 Collins Street, Melbourne.

The recent opening of Sibling in Carlton has put the concept back on the table (pun intended). The inner-north café is the offshoot – as the name states – to the popular socially-minded city outlet Kinfolk. Both cafes are staffed by volunteers with a focus on capacity building, specialised hospitality training and inclusivity. Along with providing a venue for workplace training, Sibling and Kinfolk donate 100 per cent of the profits to location and international causes, including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and The Cathy Freeman Foundation. The menus have been designed to celebrate local and seasonal produce with a focus on sustainable practices, along with small batch coffee and local wines. Sibling, 611 Nicholson St, Carlton North, Victoria, 3054. 0421 726 901; Kinfolk, 673 Bourke St, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000. 0412 711 381.

The support for the disadvantaged extends to regional Victoria with training and mentoring available for marginalised people beyond the state’s capital. Social Foundry café in Kyneton which opened last year runs short, medium and long-term programs that mentor and impart work-skills and life-skills to young people with limited opportunities in the Macedon Ranges. The not-for-profit business, located in a former car showroom, serves coffees, shakes and simple wholesome food. 86 Mollison Street, Kyneton, Victoria, 3444.

The MADCOW (make a difference, change the world) is a community café in Bendigo which provides good food at cheap prices. The café offers employment and training for youth as well as hosting free community breakfast to break the cycle of generational injustice aiming to help prevent family breakdown and homelessness. Located within the Life Essentials hub, the café aims to connect with disadvantaged and marginalised people. The café is part of a range of initiatives which also include youth mentoring programs, refugee training and employment, after school sports programs and homeless meals. 214 Hargreaves Street, Bendigo, Victoria, 3550. (03) 5441 4747.   

Disadvantaged youth

A handful of Melbourne cafes are tackling the issue of youth unemployment and homelessness one coffee at a time. Good2Go Coffee in Melbourne’s famous Hosier Lane provides at-risk youth with trainee programs to learn key employability skills, self-confidence and genuine work experience. Profits from the hole in the wall café are redirected back into the programs and services offered by Youth Projects, such as our Night Nurses and Foot Patrol teams. As well as supporting youth, visitors can purchase a drink or snack for a person experiencing homelessness through the “Pay it Forward Coffee” board. 7-9 Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000. (03) 9945 2100.

Located on Cromwell Street in Collingwood, STREAT is a converted 1860’s manor turned café, coffee roastery, artisan bakery, meeting spaces and function rooms. Since opening their Cromwell site in 2016, STREAT has extended their footprint and youth training program with outlets at RACV Bourke St, Melbourne Central and RMIT University. STREAT provides supported vocational training and holistic personal support to marginalised and disadvantaged young people aged 16 to 24 in Melbourne.

The social enterprise team Society Melbourne behind Crepes for Change food truck and mobile Coffee Cart Changing Lives have opened a bricks and mortar micro-café in the inner-north neighbourhood of Brunswick. Along with specialty coffee, serves artisanal porridge and bircher creations in the morning and filled gourmet bagels in the afternoon. All profits are invested in a split-profit model between Eat Up Australia and in projects that exist to eliminate youth homelessness. Nightingale 1, 6 Florence Street, Brunswick, Victoria, 3056. 0450 900 194.

Tradeblock Café at the Victorian College for the Deaf is a fully operational café training Year 11 and 12 deaf students as part of their Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning. The menu, which changes daily, serves coffee, soups, sandwiches and baked good. Visitors to the café use the Tradeblock Café App to learn how to use Auslan, Australian Sign Language, to communicate and order with the staff behind the counter. The café is open during the school term. 597 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Victoria,  3004. (03) 9510 1706.

Fitzroy’s Charcoal Lane dishes up gourmet native Australian flavours by young Aboriginal people who are in need of a fresh start in life. A Mission Australia social enterprise restaurant, Charcoal Lane specialises in fine-dining bush fare. The aim of the program is to create a skilled workforce for the hospitality industry, providing leadership and mentoring to help vulnerable young people achieve their potential and gain long-term independence and sustainable mainstream employment. 136 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065. (03) 9418 3400.


Charcoal Lane
Charcoal Lane restaurant, Gertrude Street Fitzroy.

Migrant Communities

After opening their first restaurant in St Kilda in 2000, unique social enterprise Lentil As Anything has expended to three venues and a grocery store in Melbourne. The vegan businesses trade without set prices with visitors to pay-as-you-feel with all profits donated to help acclimatise migrants, including a professional barista course for refugees and asylum seekers. The grocery store, The Inconvenient Store, stocks food and products that has been rescued, donated, sorted and stocked by our volunteer food rescue team Food Without Borders. Lentil As Anything aims to provide food without the borders of race, gender, finance or social status. Various locations (Abbotsford, St Kilda and Thornbury)

Food and culture are celebrated at Tamil Feasts, which sees traditional Sri Lankan fare prepared by Tamil men currently seeking asylum in Australia. These thrice-weekly feasts create a context in which the cooks are able to share the food heritage of their homeland with the wider community. It is a unique opportunity to experience the vibrant colour, spice and flavour of authentic Tamil cuisine with a traditional banquet of curries, chutneys, vadai, dahl, and masalas. The feasts are held every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights in the Merri Table Café at 7:00pm. CERES Community Environment Park, Corner Roberts Street & Stewart Street, Brunswick East, Victoria, 3057.

Free to Feed showcases the culinary talents and entrepreneurial spirit of people seeking asylum and refugees through cooking classes, events and a food incubator. The not-for-profit social enterprise, founded in late 2015, assist people seeking asylum find meaningful employment and Community assimilation by championing their unique skills and individual stories. Free to Feed is a mobile cooking school hosting classes, workshops, events and immersive food experiences. Free to Feed has also established Now to Launch, a food business incubator supporting refugees and new migrants to realise their culinary dreams. 763A High Street, Thornbury, Victoria, 3071; 539 High Street, Northcote, Victoria, 3070. 0426 252 334.

The Scarf Community pops-up at a new Melbourne restaurant every season to support individuals currently seeking protection, refugee and migrant backgrounds who face barriers to getting hospitality jobs. The dinners provide young people, alongside industry mentors, to gain hands-on front of house experience. The trainees engage in 10 weeks of training sessions, including formal service, wine, cocktails, beer, coffee and resume-writing, before paid experience during dinner service. Autumn Scarf Dinners will be held on Tuesdays at the Rochester Hotel in Fitzroy from 26 March – 21 May. 182 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065.

This content can be shared and edited for the purpose of promoting Victoria as a visitor destination. Not for use in paid advertising. Please credit Visit Victoria.


10 outdoor hidden gems

Outdoor activities / 3 Oct 2021

Whether it is a picnic, biking, strolling or reading setting you’re after, these top 10 outdoor gems have you covered.

read more

Fur-friendly Hotels

Accommodation / 3 Oct 2021

Pet friendly stays in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

read more

Country Pubs with Fireplaces

Regional food & drink / 17 May 2021

There is no better way to fend off the chill of a Victorian winter than by sipping on a locally brewed beverage by a fireplace.

read more