The role of food in regional refugee settlement: stories from the Myanmar community Coffs Harbour
Hughes, M 2015, 'The role of food in regional refugee settlement: stories from the Myanmar community Coffs Harbour', paper presented to the Agrifood Research Network Conference, Queenstown, New Zealand, 6-9 December.
The long journey of seeking asylum can be marked by significant trauma and interruption. In most cases refugees flee their homeland with few possessions, prioritising the immediate safety of their families and themselves. Considerable time is spent in transition countries awaiting refugee status. Once arriving in the final destination country, new arrivals experience a variety of emotions from feeling safe, to challenged, to uncertain. Food plays a fundamental role in this cultural confusion: How to get to the shops? How to pay the money? How to find familiar foods? This doctoral research explores the sociocultural role of food in settlement for people from Myanmar now residing in the regional Australian town of Coffs Harbour. It explores the ways in which food can play an integral part in the continuation and redefinition of culture and identity. This research documents the strengthening of the Myanmar community through cooking and sharing meals, especially for festivals and other celebrations. It also examines the role of gardening in order to access rare traditional foods, as well as provide access to green space and a form of ‘therapy’. Food therefore plays a fundamental role in remembering stories from home and continuing cultural traditions through the embodied experiences of growing, eating and cooking.