Since 2009, Charcoal Lane has combined a world-renowned restaurant, specialising in seasonally driven native flavours, with a comprehensive training program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people; connecting them to food from this land, cultural experiences through the restaurant and catering operations, and one another. Troy Crellin was Responsible for the management of Mission Australia's Social Enterprise Program, Charcoal Lane.
Charcoal Lane was a restaurant that provided employment pathways in hospitality for Aboriginal youth, whilst fostering a connection to culture through native cuisine.
The program has supported more than 300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to gain both hospitality training and professional experience within a supportive developmental environment. Charcoal Lane has been delivered in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS). Mission Australia Manager of Social Enterprise Programs in Victoria, Troy Crellin said: “We are incredibly grateful to the hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who have trusted us on their journey through training and employment since we opened in 2009.
“We are thankful for the local Aboriginal community, corporate Australia, local councils, State and Federal Government and the young people who have joined the program for the opportunity to promote and lead a process of reconciliation that puts Aboriginal people at the front of our activity. We are grateful for the relationships and support, the ongoing connection to culture, country and history, and for being allowed to play a role in the personal and professional journeys of Charcoal Lane participants. “We believe we have honoured the cultural heritage and significance of this building and are proud to be able to return the place that we’ve called home for more than a decade, back to the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service so they can re-establish this site for their Aboriginal health service. The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service was originally established in 1972 and moved into this iconic building on Gertrude Street in 1979. It is an important mainstay for the local Aboriginal community and a site of activism.
We would like to thank everyone who has ever dined at Charcoal Lane, ordered takeaway during lockdown and those who have held events and enjoyed our catering. We are so grateful for everyone’s contribution and belief in a vision for reconciliation led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people over the past 12 years. “I would like to warmly thank the Charcoal Lane team, past and present, for the ongoing dedication, passion and compassion that they have brought to work every day. Our highly skilled and dedicated team have ensured the focus remained on maintaining a culturally safe and capable workplace that promoted training, development and wellbeing for all staff and students. “We would also like to thank the many wonderful organisations and individuals we have partnered with over the years including Aboriginal controlled organisations, community services, trusts and funders who have contributed through financial support, events and dining in our restaurant.
“We look forward to celebrating Charcoal Lane at a special farewell event for past and present staff, trainees and their families, and other organisations and people who have contributed to Charcoal Lane over the years. “The building’s street art installation by Gunnai and Waradgerie man Robert Young, will remain along with its connection to Aboriginal identity, connections and culture in Fitzroy.” Michael Graham, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service said: “We would like to thank Mission Australia for their successful management of Charcoal Lane facilitating learning and employment opportunities and providing personal support and nurturing ways to connect to culture for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.
“When Mission Australia opened Charcoal Lane in 2009, they breathed new life into this building which has immense cultural and historical significance for our local Aboriginal community. “We are looking forward to the next chapter for this building where we will continue to provide vital healthcare to our community. “It is great to have this opportunity to re- open another culturally safe health space in a historically and culturally significant site at this time of high need. “VAHS staff and services has grown exponentially since 2009 and intends to revamp the much-needed space to cater for the ever-increasing demand for VAHS programs and services for our community to safely ensure their health and wellbeing especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. VAHS will be able to offer our people easier access to crucial health services and programs to continue to improve the quality of health and address social determinants in our community. “Reconnecting our community with 136 Gertrude Street goes beyond being a local health service facility. “The VAHS service will continue to operate as a conduit between people and families, sharing news or providing somewhere to talk, connect and continue to build a sense of community alongside quality health outcomes.”