Myanmar to Coffs Harbour: the role of food in regional refugee settlement

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Publication details

Hughes, M 2015, 'Myanmar to Coffs Harbour: the role of food in regional refugee settlement', Locale, vol. 5, pp. 58-81.

Article available on Open Access


This paper is based on preliminary findings from research focusing on the sociocultural food experiences of Myanmar refugees (settlers) in Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia. This qualitative, ethnographic study draws on ideas from anthropology and sociology to examine the factors that influence food choices for this particular group. The idea of ‘food as memory’ is well established and this is especially relevant for refugees who have fled their homelands with little more than ‘stories’ and ‘experiences’ from the past. Growing and cooking food (‘traditional’ foods in particular) can allow a settler to reconnect with their past and reassert their cultural identity, which is highly significant for a population experiencing extreme cultural dislocation. Initial interviews with key informants have revealed some of the food challenges faced by this group, but they have also highlighted the special role of food in fostering ‘community’ and how this is connected to attaining a sense of well-being. Gardening has also been identified as significant in promoting and strengthening identity, as well as providing a means of income and a form of ‘therapy’.

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