Recipes For Living
Friday, February 13, 2015 at 8:43PM

‘Recipes For Living’ Project: A first in Darwin

In November and December 2014, Nightcliff Uniting Church played host to a therapeutic cooking program after being awarded an ‘Our Neighbourhood’ grants by Australia Post.

‘Recipes For Living’ brought together a small group of refugees and one asylum seeker living in Darwin to cook together, share stories and eat yummy food.  The core group of women hailed from four different groups – Burmese, Karen, Chinese and Nepalese - however language turned out to be no barrier to participation and contributed to many laugh-out- loud moments!  The group has put together a Recipe Book featuring their favourite Food Recipes cooked and eaten in the on-site outdoor kitchen, as well as Recipes of Life featuring their strengths and skills, and Special Recipe Tips for surviving difficult times.  Collectively, they also wrote a Recipe for Starting Life in a New Country.  Their hope is that this recipe will benefit other refugees who are just arriving in Australia.

The group used many local tropical ingredients that are grown in Darwin, many of these harvested from the Mulch Pit Community Garden on the church grounds.  The women enjoyed picking from the garden and sharing the different ways they use local produce.

Facilitator of the group, Lucy Van Sambeek who is passionate about narrative therapeutic practice has been wanting to trial the Recipes of Life methodology in Darwin, after a chance meeting in Adelaide a few years ago with Natalie Rudland Wood, who developed the methodology.  Lucy has been involved in The Mulch Pit Community Garden since it was established and is always looking for ways to connect people with community and the earth.  ‘Recipes for Living’ also acknowledges the difficult paths that some people have experienced in life and celebrates their strengths in a supportive environment with like-minded people.

Outcomes included building new relationships amongst participants, connecting refugees to new resources at Nightcliff including the op shop and community garden, improved English skills and confidence in the community, and increased knowledge about growing and cooking local food.  A lovely surprise was the spontaneous participation of partners, children and other family members, who would pop up in at different times during the program, either to lead cooking or feast at the table.

Christabelle Baranay, a community cultural development consultant and volunteer with DASSAN, provided expert help in documentation and photography to create the Recipe Book, to remind participants of their cherished food memories and the ingredients that keep them strong in hard times.  The program was well supported by volunteers from the Mulch Pit Community Garden who offered child care on site and kitchen hand help.  Many from the church and wider community donated staple items to the pantry and organisations like Greenies provided fresh ingredients that were not growing on site.

You can download a copy of the Recipe Book here.  We would love to hear from other workers around Australia how our Recipes and stories have been of benefit to other refugees and asylum seekers.  To send a message to the Darwin group or find out more about the program, please contact





Article originally appeared on Welcome to Nightcliff (
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