Volunteer profile: Meet Gillian from Melbourne’s inner west

There would be no Welcome Dinner Project if it wasn’t for hundreds of amazing volunteers all around the country who give boundless passion, dedication and love to make people feel welcome in our communities.

Every fortnight, the Welcome Dinner Project – Victoria will profile one of its volunteers. We hope this helps you to get to know us better.

A bit about me

Hi there, I’m Gillian and I am one of the original team of volunteers who helped launch the Welcome Dinner Project in Melbourne in 2014/15.

I work in communications for the Victorian Government and I get to write about all the fantastic major events which come to Melbourne. I’m also a speech writer and write for the Minister of Tourism. By night I’m also a freelance writer where I write about the two greatest loves in my life – travel and food! I’m also passionate about hiking and when the sun’s out you’ll find me up a mountain somewhere or exploring somewhere new with my hiking group because I believe every day is new adventure!

Why I joined the Welcome Dinner Project

As an avid world traveller, some of the most meaningful and memorable experiences I’ve ever enjoyed have arisen when I’ve been invited to share a meal in someone’s home – there’s something incredibly endearing about the simple act of sharing food. Likewise, I’ve always loved to cook and have invited many extras over the years to join my own dinner table in Melbourne who were new or visiting in Australia.

So, when I found out the WDP was launching in Victoria, it was only natural that I joined with a platform that could reach so many more people in what I was essentially doing already. I also wished to play my part in welcoming the newly arrived to Australia and building connections in my local community as a way of combatting the negative rhetoric and misconceptions around refugees fuelled by the media.

Guests from Melbourne’s first ever Home Welcome Dinner hosted by Meagan in 2014.

Favourite Welcome Dinner memory

My favourite memory is a collective one gathered over a number of dinners and that is seeing the tangible change in our dinner guests in only a couple hours. Their eyes light up, they smile, you see them relax as the night goes on and stories and recipes are shared. I’ve also loved hearing how our guests went on afterwards to join community events and establish friendships that they might not have done otherwise.

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