We aren’t content merely bringing you the latest and greatest in Aussie street style. Each month, we like to shine a light on one of the many Australians making their mark on the world and staying passionate about their beliefs.
Meet Meagan Williams, state coordinator of the Welcome Dinner Project in Victoria and our latest Revolutionary of the Month.
Upon returning home after months spent backpacking across Europe and experiencing first hand how difficult it can be to connect with locals, Melbourne resident Meagan was determined to make a positive change in her own community. “I had been really searching for a way that I could connect meaningfully and welcome people who are new to Australia,” she says.
Run by Sydney-based NGO joiningthedots, the Welcome Dinner Project aims to break down the barriers that exist between established Australians and newly arrived people through potluck style dinners hosted in the homes of volunteers.
“When I came back and heard this was starting in Sydney I thought it was really needed in Australia and particularly Melbourne,” says Williams. “It’s just hard to meet people sometimes, it takes courage to talk to them and I loved that this project had the power to make this happen in an easy and facilitatable way. I really put my hand up to be involved from there.”
So began Meagan’s involvement in the project as a state coordinator. In October of 2014 and with only a handful of signups, the Welcome Dinner Project was launched in Victoria – with the first couple of meetings taking place in Williams’ own home.
“Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength. We started with probably 40 people on the list and now we have around 1600. The majority of these people are those who want to host and open their homes and this shows an incredible amount of generosity and vulnerability.”
The stereotype-smashing initiative creates a comfortable environment for people from a range of backgrounds to connect in, with each participant encouraged to bring a dish that is significant to them or their culture.
Given the current conversation surrounding immigrants and refugees within Australia, it seems more important than ever that we embrace this culture of welcome. Williams agrees that the tensions within our current political climate are encouraging more people to volunteer and spread the message of acceptance.
“Definitely there is a momentum and energy behind the project that is increasing, and I think it’s in response to people hearing about these incidents of racism in their community and wanting to say ‘that doesn’t represent me or community, and you are welcome here.’”
“Obviously it’s not an entirely new concept, having people over for dinner,” offers Williams.
“But there is something about the space and vulnerability of coming into somebody’s home and the symbolism of that is very powerful.”
With interest in the project growing within Australia and abroad, it’s clear that there is indeed something special about this seemingly simple approach as it manages to transcend ethnicity, age, class and gender in order to spark conversation and connect people under a shared humanity.
“It’s a whole lot of different people, and that’s what we need in society. We need to meet people not just in different cultures and settlement journeys, but everyone, and have face to face conversations.”
It seems that what it all boils down to, both for Meagan herself and the growing number of volunteers involved with the project, is the notion of ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’.
If you’re as inspired by our Revolutionary of the Month as we are, you can head to joiningthedots to find out how to get to get involved. If you decide to host a Welcome Dinner, or have already hosted, we’d L.O.V.E to hear about it!