Azem Elmaz is a well known proprietor of Luftiye's Shish Kebab in Wyndham Street, Shepparton. He tells of his arrival in Australia, working as a cleaner and moving to Shepparton. His principal joy in life is helping others.
I was born in Macedonia in 1960. I grew up in a small town called Prespa. The town of Prespa was multicultural, people from Albania, Turkey and the Macedonians. Despite the differing cultures and languages within the town we all managed to understand and get along with each other.
At the age of seventeen I moved to Denmark and lived there for four years. I went back to Macedonia for a holiday and visit my mum.
My mother said "Go to Australia see your brother". I replied, "But mum, Australia is so far away, it's like the end of the world!" My mother protested, "No! No! You go there". I listened to her and went to Australia.
I arrived in Austarlia on the 15th of August 1983. I commenced work as a cleaner at the Motor Registration Branch in Carlton. Whilst working, I was also studying English at Latrobe University on a part time basis, for two years.
My family introduced me to a girl, three months later we were married. I feel I was very lucky to meet her. We have four children, 2 boys and 2 girls.
After getting married I changed jobs and worked for a contract cleaning company for two years.
I opened my own cleaning business in 1986 and ran that in Melbourne for three years after which I moved to Shepparton.
I took my family to Macedonia for a holiday. We stayed there for three months.
Following my holiday I came back to Shepparton and opened a Take-away food restaurant called Lutfye's Shish Kebab, located at 338 Wyndham street opposite the Post Office as well as continuing my cleaning business.
I am heavily involved in community work in the Goulburn Valley. I link families to main stream services such as centre link , hospitals etc.
I try to breakdown barriers, to make the transition for newly arrived people, into the general population as smooth as possible.
I am involved in interpreting duties which include police, court and medical issues.
I do a lot of fund raising through my business. I have a donation tin in my shop and customers can donate as well as the donations I collect from the Muslim community following prayers at the Shepparton Mosque.
In 2003 $7885.00 was raised for the Royal Childrens Hospital. Money has also been raised for international causes via these methods, such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Kenya, Eritrea and Albania.
Through my business I raised $11,500.00 for the victims of the Indonesian tsunami by donating fifty cents from every meal that I sold through my business.
I also provide free meals for people who are in need through my business.
In 2002 the Victorian Islamic Council appointed me as a Chaplain to visit Beechworth and Durringhile prisons and I continue to do so. I also visit the familes of prisoners.
The job is a labour of love as it is only my fuel costs that are reimbursed.
I am often invited to give lectures to schools and other organisations on the Muslim way of life in. I have travelled to many places in the Goulburn Valley for this purpose; also I have gone to Cohuna.
My seventeen years in Shepparton have been very fulfilling. I came to Australia in 1983, the Australian government accepted me, the Australian people welcomed me and this is my home.
God bless Australia!
Source: Suitcase Full of Dreams (Reproduced with permission)
Shepparton kebab shop owner Azem Elmaz has shut the doors to his Wyndham St business for four days while he cooks and serves thousands of meals to hungry emergency workers based at Violet Town fighting fires. Azem has been helped a team of local volunteers -- and together they have created an inspiring example of country community spirit.