The unique challenges presented by COVID19 hasn't exactly made 2020 a cakewalk for anyone, with the onset of the virus seeing many of us lose our jobs and social lives in the blink of an eye. In Australia, some of us have been lucky enough to receive some form of government benefit, meaning that we at least don't have to worry about keeping a roof over our heads or food on the table (for the time being). However due to the eligibility requirements that these entitlements hinge upon, many have been left out in the cold, with an estimated 1 million temporary visa holders having been shut out of the JobKeeper program. The lack of government support has left many temporary visa holders broke and desperate, while the disruptions to global travel networks have seen prices for flights skyrocket, meaning that people may not be able to return home even if they want to.
Thankfully there are a number of groups that have stepped up to the plate, offering much needed support to temporary visa holders. One such group that came onto our radar lately is The Temporary Cake Company, an initiative started up by two temporary visa holders, who found themselves with a lot of spare time and strong desire to help those in need. Through Temporary Cakes, people can purchase delicious cakes, with the proceeds being passed directly to those need it most. Olivia and Ilse, the brains behind the operation, were nice enough answer a few of our questions.
Hey Guys, thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few of our questions, how are you going during these difficult times?
Thank you for having us and giving a platform to people on temporary visas, it has been a few crazy months!
Both of us are on sponsorship visas in hospitality and our hours have been cut down drastically. We are both lucky enough to still have a few hours a week left to cover some bills, but we are very aware that a lot of people in similar positions are not that lucky.
Ilse was very close to being able to apply for PR after 7 years in Australia, but unfortunately her skill has been taken off the skill list and she will have to leave the country at the end of the year. Olivia has a few more years left to go on her sponsorship visa until she will be able to apply. The insecurity of not knowing what will happen is scary, but we remain hopeful.
First of all congratulations on this initiative, what sparked the idea for Temporary Cakes?
We are very aware that there are so many people worse off than us and we channelled this frustration into this new venture. Olivia has been supporting one of the kitchen hands she worked with before Corona hit, by giving her a cut of her wages every now and then, but this wasn’t sustainable. Olivia is an experienced pastry chef from England and we decided to bundle our strengths to try and help as many temporary visa holders in need. It started out as wanting to help a few friends and colleagues that were struggling, but soon realised that we could actually make a difference.
We have now rolled support out to anyone that contacts us. People can nominate others or themselves, we don’t ask for any proof of loss of earnings and are humbled by how many people decline the help asking it to go to someone worse off.
The plan was to bake at home, which soon turned out was not enough. All are welcome, the bakery in Thornbury reached out and offered to let us use their kitchen for free, which meant we could bake double the amount of cakes. We were sold out in the first few days and were overwhelmed with all the support we got.
Tell us more about the cakes themselves, they look incredible!
After tasting a slice of the cake on Olivia's front porch at her partner's birthday a few weeks ago (very social distanced slice) Ilse was obsessed. The cake is a 9inch two layered carrot cake, with cream cheese icing and pistachios. It has FUCK COVID written on top, as you know.. fuck covid, but we are also more than happy to turn it into Happy birthday.
Are you guys planning on distributing funds directly to temporary visa holders or instead through another organisation/charity?
We donate funds directly to the visa holder. We don’t have the capacity to produce mass meals ourselves to feed people and thought about donating to food banks and supporting other initiatives that drop meals off. However, we thought there was a real gap in direct funding to cater to people’s specific needs. Some people need support with food, others need funds for different purposes. We know that the $100 we give out per person is not nearly enough to cover the loss of income that most have experienced, but the feedback is that this makes a huge difference. People feel like someone cares and they feel less alone. We all pay our taxes, invest in the economy, believe in the Australian way of life, yet we’ve just been forgotten by the government, fallen by the wayside and told to go home when it was too late for most people to do this.
A large number of temporary visa holders work in the hospitality community, have you guys found the hospitality community to be a good support network during these times?
Hospitality has always been a family to us, a weird family of misfits that would never normally mix or work. It works because it’s a community, and sometimes just because it has to. It is amazing to see how creative people get in trying to get by, but also supporting each other, however, this shouldn’t be the way. We shouldn’t have to be feeding each other and making sure we are ok. There’s a fundamental failing in human rights here. It will tarnish immigration to Australia for years to come.
Are there any other people/groups doing work to support temporary visa holders that we should know about?
Yes. There are a lot of different platforms, from Attica soup kitchen and Henry sugars home cooked meals, to bigger organisations like voice for hospo and covid19ead - they feed over 3000 temporary visa holders a week through donations and volunteering. We are really a very small operation comparatively.
If you want to get involved by ordering a cake, email email@example.com