Generosity in the gardens

Take a stroll near Cooks’ Cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens to discover a cafe that keeps community at its heart – KereKere Green.

Owner James Murphy grew up in Fiji and his business is inspired by the Pacific island’s local custom of kerekere – where a relative or neighbour can request something they need and it must be willingly given with no expectation of repayment.

‘Everything we do is based on generosity. We provide an inclusive, welcoming space – a refuge from the outside world – and I couldn’t imagine running the business any other way,’ said James, whose background is in social work.

‘We want the world to stop being so transactional. Giving people time and energy is the gift. These days people are hesitant to ask for help, and the great thing about kerekere is that it’s all about the request.

‘Generosity also has to keep moving – these gifts aren’t capital.’

While his business has achieved a lot in 10 years – gradually evolving from a simple coffee cart at the University of Melbourne – James has maintained a strong ethos of inclusion and generosity.

KereKere Green hosts regular events, co-created with the community, and contributes $10,000 per year to bring them to life. Coming up is speed dating for seniors, a wellness week and a green picnic, featuring local produce and as little packaging as possible.

‘I am as passionate today as I was when I started.’

Every year, the cafe also employs two people who are facing barriers to finding work and trains them in the art of coffee making and the cafe’s trademark welcoming service.

It’s a small, all-hands-on-deck operation, and today James has been busy in the kitchen to meet demand for their newly-introduced ‘free cake day’.

‘My personal philosophy is that success doesn’t come because you are unique. What’s truly special is turning up every day – just showing up and not expecting everything to fall into place straight away,’ James said.

‘Of course, relationships are the glue that holds it all together and we’ve found that there’s a “Goldilocks” state, where we’re not too big and not too small.

‘I am as passionate today as I was when I started. It’s a craft, and we’re always getting better.’

James is the recipient of a Lord Mayor’s Commendation, a program that celebrates the long-term commitment of small businesses.