A society which embraces diversity, celebrates connected communities, and has equitable employment opportunities for all.


To create a nourishing, supportive and inclusive space for trainees to gain confidence, skills, knowledge and networks. To foster connections in the hospitality industry to create equitable employment opportunities.

Who We Work With

Scarf provides opportunities for 18 – 28 year-olds facing barriers to work, including those who are long-term unemployed, specifically:

  • young people seeking asylum (waiting on a protection outcome)
  • young people from a refugee or migrant background


Quality & Pride

Scarf training sessions, dinners and events are top quality. Trainees, trainers, mentors, staff, board members, restaurant partners, sponsors and diners are all proud to be part of Scarf.


We acknowledge that the current system does not afford everyone the same opportunities. We strive to change this, so that all young people have equitable access to training and employment.

Respect & Togetherness

Whilst respecting that each Scarf trainee has their own aspirations, goals and dreams, we value togetherness and what we can achieve as a team.


We believe in the importance of hard work and fun in equal measure.


We use our privileged position to form purposeful partnerships in the community sector, the hospitality industry, and beyond.

Possibility & Opening Doors

We see potential in every individual and strive to create meaningful change for all participants.


We’re proud of our important work, but try not to take ourselves too seriously all the time. We’re grateful for the support we receive, large or small.

Scarf FAQ

What is Scarf?

At Scarf, we transform the lives of young people seeking protection, and those from refugee and migrant backgrounds, by getting them into work while adding flavour and heart to the hospitality industry. Founded in 2010, Scarf is a not-for-profit organisation which operates as a social enterprise. We partner with restaurants and other hospitality businesses to provide meaningful training, mentoring and paid work experience to our participants. We create a positive, real-world experience for our trainees, who have faced significant barriers to work. They are paid, valued, become part of a learning community, and move on to meaningful jobs with confidence, supportive relationships, and excitement. Scarf is run by a pretty awesome team of people – check them out here. And if you’re interested in the bigger picture, you can read our 2019 – 2022 Strategic Plan.

Why did Scarf start?

Whilst volunteering with the refugee community in 2009-2010, we observed firsthand how hard it can be for newly arrived young people to find jobs, despite having a great attitude and a willingness to take on anything! Then we learned that unemployment rates amongst humanitarian migrants can be staggeringly high – up to 43%. More research revealed that people seeking protection, and those from refugee/migrant backgrounds face significant barriers to employment including limited English, lack of Australian work experience and local references, impacts of past trauma on health and wellbeing, low confidence and discrimination. In September 2010, Scarf was founded to break down these barriers and change that statistic. We’re on a mission to create an inclusive and supportive environment for young people to gain hospitality knowledge, skills and experience. We’re also advocating for more inclusive hiring practices in the hospitality industry. Our vision is a society which celebrates diversity and has equitable employment opportunities for all young people.

What difference does Scarf make?

  • We’ve run 24 ten-week Scarf Dinners seasonal programs and five Tasting Plate short courses, offering a total of 254 trainee positions
  • 235 young people have graduated from our programs (which makes for a 93% retention rate)
  • We’ve provided over 7,970 hours of paid work experience during Scarf Dinners
  • Trainees have engaged in 15,715 hours of awesome, hands-on training at venues like Five Senses Coffee, Garden State Hotel, Ladro, Kitty Somerset and Kelvin
  • Over 250 hospitality professionals have volunteered their time as trainers and mentors in our program, from venues such as Gerald’s Bar, Market Lane Coffee, Carlton Wine Room, Uncle, Garden State Hotel, Pullman Hotel and Copper Pot Seddon
  • We’ve served 16,050 diners during Scarf Dinners
  • 70% of Scarf graduates (from our ten-week Scarf Dinners seasonal programs) have found meaningful employment within six months of completing the program
  • Scarf trainees have gone on to fantastic jobs at Garden State Hotel, Siglo, Vertue Coffee, Super Ling, Free to Feed, The European/Spring St Events, Keg King, Koko Black, Sofitel on Collins, Atticus Finch, The Plough Hotel, The Two Birds Nest, The Lincoln, Maha, Attica, The Moor’s Head, The Penny Black, Peter Rowlands Catering, Mount Zero Olives, Gladstone Park Hotel, Thirsty Camel, Hell of the North and Bibendum Wine Co.
  • 77% of bar managers said they were now more likely to hire someone from a refugee background (after participating in 2016’s ‘Do More Than Drink’ campaign)
  • (Updated: September 2019)

What does Scarf look like?

We partner with Melbourne’s best restaurants to run three 10-week seasonal programs per year, each providing eight trainee places. These seasonal programs include hands-on hospitality training sessions and eight weekly ‘Scarf Dinners’, where professional chefs cook and Scarf trainees serve customers (80-90 per night), while supported by their mentors. We’ve served dinner to over 16,000 customers since 2010 and we’ve run Scarf Dinners from places like Higher Ground MelbourneRupert on Rupert and The Lincoln.

What else do you do?

We also run an intensive short course called Tasting Plate, in partnership with organisations such as the Australian Red Cross, Brimbank City Council and the Inner North Community Foundation. Tasting Plate programs run for three days and provide 16 trainee places, and include ‘Pop Up’ Scarf Dinners where graduate trainees gain paid work experience. And, we run two annual fundraising and awareness-building initiatives; the Do More Than Drink campaign in conjunction with over 40 of Melbourne’s best bars, and Do More Than Dine, a very special annual fundraising dinner hosted by Matt Preston at ARC ONE Gallery with food by Cumulus Inc and front of house service and stories from some of Scarf’s amazing graduates.

What can I expect at a Scarf Dinner?

An excellent dining experience! A Scarf Dinner is similar to any night out in a great restaurant, except that by dining with Scarf, you’re making a real difference to the lives of young people who have faced barriers to work. The chefs from our partner restaurant design and cook a set menu, and Scarf trainees and mentors take care of the front of house. Expect delicious food, attentive service, a fun and buzzy atmosphere and the opportunity to provide valuable feedback to help educate our trainees and strengthen their skills.

If you dine at Scarf early in the season, nerves might be quite high and there may not be a perfect reciting of the menu! Towards the end of the season you’ll probably see the trainees owning the floor while telling their mentors to back off (nicely)! Some people like to dine early and late in the season, to really see the trainees’ journey.

But hey, don’t just listen to us! Here are some words from a recent Scarf diner:

“The food was delicious and knowing that we were contributing to something socially important made the dining experience meaningful. I am going home with a full tummy and a smile!”

Where does Scarf operate from?

Restaurants mainly, with the odd bar pop up or event. Generally, we partner with one restaurant at a time and run weekly dinners for a ten week Scarf Dinners season. We have been lucky to work with some of the top names in the hospitality industry including UncleHigher Ground Melbourne, Copper Pot SeddonThe LincolnRumiEpochaMesa Verde and Top Paddock. Every now and then we ‘pop up’ for a night in a fabulous bar (like Pallino) so make sure you’re on our mailing list to be the first to hear about these special one-off events.

Who are the trainees?

Scarf provides front of house training opportunities to young people (18-28 years) seeking protection, and those from refugee/migrant backgrounds facing barriers to work. When we do a call out for new trainees, our eligibility criteria looks like this.

How does recruitment work?

We recruit a new group of eight young people as front-of-house trainees each season. We accept referrals from organisations like Centre for Multicultural YouthRed CrossSpectrum Migrant Resource Centre, The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Foundation House, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Orygen Youth Health, Life Without Barriers and SAIL. We also have a lot of young people self-refer to the program, or we’re contacted by a parent, teacher, sibling or friend. So long as a young person meets our eligibility criteria, we will consider them for a place in our program. Here’s something a case worker said after a Scarf graduate she’d referred was seeking work:

“Scarf offers a very realistic hospitality experience. One client was recently offered a trial in a cafe – he said that if it wasn’t for his Scarf training, he would have really struggled and felt overwhelmed, and possibly not shown up at all. The Scarf model is more flexible and adaptable to individual needs.”

So… what is Scarf?

We identify as a social enterprise, because we run a lot like a business but we have a social mission. We incorporated in 2010 as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. In 2014 we became a registered charity (Public Benevolent Institution) and were endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient (under Subdivision 30-BA of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997). This means that you can make a tax deductible donation to Scarf, which is pretty great. Donations are used for training expenses and trainee wages. Our ABN is 58 145 518 583.

I keep hearing about Scarf’s sponsors. How does that work?

Since Scarf was founded in 2010, we have enjoyed product sponsorship from great companies including Punt Road Wines, Stomping Ground Brewing CoSTARWARD WhiskyFour Pillars Gin and Five Senses Coffee. Many hospitality businesses support us with donated products and training sessions, which are core to our model.

Are Scarf’s partner restaurants sponsors, too?

Not exactly. Our restaurant partners play a hugely important role – without them we couldn’t run dinners! We pay our restaurant partners to cater the dinners, bring in our own drinks, and then when you dine at Scarf you pay us for what you eat and drink, which creates income for Scarf.

But who actually funds Scarf?

Our operations are currently around 70% self-funded. This means that our training programs (which include wages for our trainees) are mainly paid for by you, our dinner guests. When you pay for your Scarf Dinner, you are literally paying for the young people in our program to gain the skills, knowledge, confidence and connections that Scarf provides. Your support is two-fold; we need plenty of diners so our trainees get experience serving real customers, and we need your dollars so that we can pay our small, dedicated team of staff to make it all happen. We face many of the same operating costs as other businesses, like office rent, insurance and stationery (you should see how many pens and notepads we go through!)

Whilst we continue on our mission to become fully self-funded, we currently utilise philanthropic support from Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Gandel Philanthrophy and Solidarity Accor. In the past we have received support from Inner North Community Foundation, The Morris Family Foundation, Westpac Foundation, Bank Australia, The RE Ross Trust, StreetSmart and City of Melbourne.

What sort of training happens at Scarf?

It’s as hands-on as it can be, because we reckon that’s where the real learning happens. Across the program, on Tuesday afternoons and some Wednesdays, trainees engage in a brewery tour and tasting at Stomping Ground and coffee training at Five Senses. We run training sessions which span formal service, customer confidence, bar basics, cocktails, resumes and interview practice with the help of a number businesses like Ladro and Garden State Hotel. Trainees also take a hotel tour at Pullman Hotel or The Sofitel on Collins. All of these venues are incredible Scarf supporters, and hospitality professionals volunteer their time to teach our young trainees the most relevant, up to date stuff.

Wine education is delivered by Jenny ‘The Wine Whitch’ Polack, who has 30 years experience in the wine industry and was the first Australian to undertake the internationally renowned OIV Master of Science in Wine Management. Jenny’s inclusive and adaptable teaching style is a perfect fit for Scarf; taking into account the complexities of working with people from different cultural backgrounds. Jenny has been Scarf’s wine trainer since our 2010 pilot program, and her wine education courses are practical and highly engaging for our diverse group of trainees. Scarf trainees also undertake the Responsible Service of Alcohol course, which is partly funded by Complete Hospitality Training. Trainees are also offered a free membership to Typsy so they can continue their learning outside of Scarf training sessions.

How does the mentoring work?

Scarf mentors are hospitality professionals who volunteer each Tuesday night during Scarf Dinners seasons. Our mentors work at some of Melbourne’s best venues, like Gerald’s Bar, Market Lane Coffee, Saint Crispin and Garden State Hotel. The mentor’s role is to demonstrate, guide and support the trainees as they learn the ropes of front of house restaurant work. By supporting the trainees in their learning and helping them build confidence, mentors play a key role in increasing the trainees’ job readiness. They are legends! Here’s something one of our ace mentors said:

“Scarf is the perfect environment to get into the hospitality industry; giving so much support and providing real service experience is the best way for anyone to learn, especially young people who have faced barriers in finding work.”

Are the trainees paid?

Yes. We’re proud to pay our trainees the Restaurant Industry Award wage for their work during Scarf Dinners. We’ve been paying our trainees since the start of 2011, as this makes Scarf count as real work experience, which goes a long way on a resume! Here are some words from one case manager who has referred many young people from a refugee background to Scarf:

“I’ve seen young people’s lives transformed through Scarf. Trainees are paid, which is rare and crucial to young people’s confidence. Nightly self-evaluations after each dinner service empower trainees to work towards their employment goals.”

I thought people seeking asylum weren’t allowed to work?

It’s true that some people seeking asylum have visa conditions which stipulate they cannot engage in paid work. If a young person is referred to Scarf and does not have current work rights, we will still consider them, as they have very limited opportunities for other training programs. We can offer them a volunteer place in the program, whereby they undertake all the Scarf training, as well as gaining valuable work experience and mentoring during Scarf Dinners. When young people seeking asylum who have engaged in Scarf are later granted work rights, we support them in finding meaningful work.

What happens to the trainees when the program ends?

Towards the end of a Scarf season, trainees begin to work with a job readiness mentor who provides support with resume writing, interview skills, and job-seeking. We encourage the trainees to identify which area of hospitality they enjoy the most and can imagine themselves working in. The job readiness mentor supports them in applying for jobs – this often involves researching and then meeting in cafés and restaurants and encouraging the trainees to apply in person.

What are the outcomes for the trainees?

Take a few minutes to watch our 2017 evaluation video to hear directly from the trainees. We’re proud that 70% of Scarf graduates find employment within six months of finishing the program. Scarf trainees have gone on to great hospitality jobs at the likes of Garden State Hotel, Siglo, Vertue Coffee, Sofitel on Collins, Atticus Finch, The Plough Hotel, The Two Birds Nest, The Lincoln, Maha, Sun Moth Canteen and Bar, The Moor’s Head, The Penny Black, The Dancing Dog, Peter Rowlands Catering, Mount Zero Olives, Cookie, Crown, Hell of the North and Bibendum Wine Co.

It’s probably best to share some quotes from our graduates to illustrate this:

“With everything I learned at Scarf, I feel like I can step into most cafes and restaurants. I have the skills to hit the ground running.”

“I am so glad I was a part of this amazing and practical training program, which enabled me to start a new career in hospitality in Australia. You bring people from different backgrounds together in a nice and friendly environment to gain skills and knowledge to be able to stand on their own.”

What is the Scarf Bookings Policy?

Scarf bookings can be made on our website, via our excellent sponsor, Dimmi. The amount of people you book for is equal to the amount of pre-paid “tickets” you are snapping up. Your credit card will be charged at $45 per person (which covers a two course set menu of entrée and main) for each seat being booked. These tickets are non-refundable. If you are unable to attend the Scarf Dinner for which you have booked, you are welcome to offer your ticket/s to somebody else. If you have a Scarf Dinners Gift Certificate which you plan to redeem at the dinner you’re booking into, book by emailing, rather than pre-paying through Dimmi. This policy was introduced in March 2016 due to an increasing number of cancellations, which significantly affect our bottom line and threaten our program’s viability.

Why do I have to pre-pay for a Scarf Dinner?

As a social enterprise, we have myriad operating costs, including paying wages to our trainees and our small, dedicated team. We also pay our partner restaurants for confirmed catering numbers, which must be provided in advance.

Scarf Dinners are a unique experience which involve lots of people – Scarf trainees, mentors and staff; our partner restaurants and their chefs; and you, our wonderful customers. Having a set amount of pre-booked, pre-paid seats ensures that:

(1) Scarf trainees get industry-relevant learning experience in a busy restaurant,

(2) the partner venue’s kitchen can adequately prepare food and manage orders on the night,

(3) Scarf trainees are paid the Restaurant Industry Award wage for their work,

(4) Scarf customers have a fantastic dining experience, and

(5) Scarf remains a viable and sustainable social enterprise.

The chefs from Scarf’s changing partner restaurants design the Scarf Dinner menu and cook on the night. This is a business relationship between Scarf and our partner restaurants, and we must confirm catering numbers with the chefs so they can adequately prepare and staff each dinner. If 80 people book for a Scarf Dinner, but only 72 arrive on the night (a common occurrence before we introduced a pre-payment system), the restaurant has still ordered and prepared food for 80 customers. Over the course of a season, this loss greatly affected our bottom line.

But I’m a loyal customer who always shows up to my booking! What’s this got to do with me?

We’re hugely appreciative of the incredibly loyal community of Scarf diners who support our trainees by attending Scarf Dinners. But our program’s financial viability is consistently traced back to last minute cancellations and drops in booking numbers, an issue which negatively affects many restaurants.

Our pre-paid bookings system is a simple solution to ensure the financial sustainability of Scarf Dinners. We need you, our awesome customers, to be accountable for your bookings and to honour them. If you can’t attend at the last minute, please find someone who can! Having the security of tickets being purchased upfront means our team can tick that off our long list of things to do, and get on with working to make Scarf a fantastic experience for our trainees.

How do I get involved?

If you own or manage a restaurant or bar and would like to nominate your venue as a potential partner venue, let us know you’re interested here. And you’re a hospitality star with solid experience and a desire to make a difference to the lives of the young people, you might like to consider joining our team as a mentorPerhaps you are interested in supporting our trainees through a sponsorship, partnership or by providing a product that we could use during our dinner seasons? We’d love to talk. If you have a specialist skill set which we could integrate into our training program such as cocktail-making or interviewing skills, let us know about it. Or maybe you have other skills we could use, like graphic design, photography or social media expertise? Let us know what you could bring to the table here. 

What does Scarf stand for?

Ah, if we had a dollar for every time we’ve been asked this over the years! Scarf, in our case, is not an acronym. We named our organisation Scarf because a scarf warm and comforting and familiar. It can also be an expression of culture or a show of support. And finally, our name relates to a 1950s American slang phrase “to scarf it down” which means to eat voraciously, when time is of the essence.