When Maria Ibrahim left her homeland of Ethiopia as a refugee at age 19, she hadn’t yet learnt the traditional art of handmade basket weaving.
But with support from the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre (CNLC), Maria was soon connected with the Harari Carlton Women's Group and taught this important cultural practice by Harari elders.
‘Each woven basket has a different purpose and meaning,’ said Maria. ‘Some baskets are used to hold bread, others flowers, and some are even used to carry items of clothing.’
‘In Ethiopia they weave with different types of dried grass and straw, but we have to use wool here in Australia,’ said Maria.
Maria and her friends from Harari Carlton Women's Group displayed a range of their woven baskets and goods at Carlton’s Harmony Day festival in March 2022.
The festival brought the community together to share and celebrate different cultures under the theme, Everyone Belongs, and was supported by the City of Melbourne, CNLC and other Carlton community agencies.
CNLC Community Development Manager, Elle Morrell, said, ‘Harmony Day is about recognising cultural diversity.’
Maria has been a part of the Harari Carlton Women’s Group since its inception 15 years ago, and participated in Harmony Day every year since, except when it wasn’t held for two years due to COVID-19.
‘It was great to see the community come together again at this year’s festival,’ said Maria.
The Harari Carlton Women's Group is supported by the CNLC, which secures funding for their activities through the City of Melbourne’s Connected Communities Grants.
Maria is extremely grateful for the support and life opportunities that CNLC has given her since she first arrived in Australia.
Until last year, Maria had spent 21 years living in a high-rise apartment in Carlton, with her husband and five children, aged between 10 and 20.
But in the wake of the pandemic, the government moved her family of seven to a larger family home in Point Cook.
While Maria says she misses living in Carlton, she is still very much a part of the local community through her ongoing involvement with CNLC and the Harari Carlton Women's Group.
Maria is also looking forward to being part of the Harmony Day Festival again next year.