Changing face of Footscray: “Footscray is more relaxed than most of Melbourne”

This article is a part of Your Footscray – an initiative of the Footscray Business Reference Group supported by Regional Rail Link

Each week we’ll be talking to some of our nine ‘Your Footscray’ ambassadors about a range of topics.

Abdul & Rozenn
Abdul & Rozenn

This week we drop in on Rozenn and Abdulazize at Konjo to chat about the changing face of Footscray. But before we ask them about Footscray it’s time for a traditional coffee ceremony with the two community leaders.

Where were you born and when did you come to Australia?
Rozenn: I was born in Brittany, in the west of France, and I came to Australia in 2001 as part of a language teaching program (an exchange between the French and Australian Departments of Education).

Abdulazize: I came to Australia from Ethiopia when I was 20, with my two younger brothers. I left Ethiopia during time of political strife and went to Kenya where I spent 8 years as a refugee before getting a Visa to come to Australia.

What were your first impressions?
R: My first impressions of Australia were the calm pace of life and the friendliness of the people. I also noticed that everything is oversized and new.

A: I kissed the land when I arrived here and I still think Australia is a blessed place.

What do you miss about your home country?
R: I sometimes miss the really old buildings of France but I love Melbourne and Footscray just as much.

Where did you two meet?
A: We met in an African bar in Smith Street, Collingwood. Now we have a family and a successful business.

How did you get started in business and what made you want to open it here in Footscray?
A: My tribe in south-eastern Ethiopia is called the Gurage. Ninety per cent of the tribe members are business people and we are known for being hard-working. After I arrived in Australia, I applied for the NEIS course (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme) because I wanted to open an African jewellery shop in Footscray, close to Melbourne’s Ethiopian community but my application was rejected because I had no funds. So I worked as a lamb boner in an abattoir for five years, saved money and re-applied to NEIS. After completing the course and getting an ‘Individual Success’ Award, I opened my first business venture in Footscray. To start with, I went on working part-time as a boner to pay for the rent until the shop was viable. Then, a few years later, we started the restaurant.

How has Footscray changed in the years you have been running your business here?
A: You see a lot more Ethiopians in the area and a lot of new businesses, particularly Ethiopian businesses.

R: Footscray has changed a lot since we started our business. People from a lot of diverse backgrounds have settled here. Also, Footscray now seems to be attracting more young people and couples, so it is more vibrant than ever.

Footscray is unique to Melbourne, so if you could take one person/experience/thing out of Footscray and share it with Melbourne, what would it be?
R: Footscray is more relaxed than most of Melbourne and a lot more multicultural.

Konjo Cafe & Restaurant / Urbanspoon
89 Irving Street, Footscray VIC 3011
03 9689 8185

Next week we’ll sit down with Tony Cavallaro, who has Footscray in his blood, and find out how the suburb has changed over the years. Make sure you wear your comfy clothes, because he’s sure to offer us a cannoli (or 2)!

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