Gateway coffee cart to boost community in Melbourne’s west

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 22 January 2019

A pop-up cafe with a difference is coming to Melbourne’s western suburbs.

A funky food van will soon be cruising Melbourne’s western suburbs, pouring lattes not for hirsute hipsters but rather the “invisible” elderly.

It’s a pop-up social cafe with a difference, dispensing kindness as well as a free meal and drink from a retro caravan. The Gateway Community Services van will set up in places such as outside high-rise public housing, bringing a cuppa and good cheer twice a week to older people who might normally not venture out.

Gateway, which works to promote community wellbeing throughout Melbourne’s western suburbs, received $14,000 for the retro caravan for the project through the RACV’s Community Foundation.

The pop-up cafe, believed to be the first of its kind in Melbourne, is just one of 20 community projects that received almost $740,000 in grants through the RACV Community Foundation last year.

The foundation has provided a total of $5.1 million to more than 400 community organisations since its inception in 1997,  supporting Victorians who are marginalised or at risk of being socially isolated.

We hope to rebuild their life, starting with a cuppa. Perhaps a five-minute coffee turns into an hour talking to a stranger and maybe playing a board game with them, which builds a friendship.

Gateway has focused on the “invisible” elderly because of the ageing demographic of Melbourne’s western suburbs.

“There are so many pockets of invisible, isolated and lonely elderly people in the western suburbs,” says Zytel Hircoe, Gateway’s Community Partnerships and Marketing Coordinator. “They didn’t mean to be alone; it just happened over years where they lost friends, family, mobility and life. 

“We hope to rebuild their life, starting with a cuppa. Perhaps a five-minute coffee turns into an hour talking to a stranger and maybe playing a board game with them, which builds a friendship.”

For Altona Meadows grandmother Rosemary Carroll, clawing her life back from isolation has been trying. “I have neighbours but I don’t know them,” she says.

“I’m 82 and quite isolated and a bit disabled with extreme pain, but Gateway allows me to get out of the house and make friends.”

One of those friends is Pam Stock, 75, from Williamstown, who has volunteered for Gateway for 17 years because it gives her pleasure.

Zytel says the not-for-profit group is grateful to the RACV Community Foundation.

Person holding a cup of coffee

“We couldn’t have done this [pop-up cafe] without the RACV’s help; its Community Foundation has supported us over the years, donating $20,000 for a new community bus and $18,000 for a health program ‘care for carers’,” she says.

She says the coffee van will also set up at festivals and other events on weekends to help fund free weekday services for the elderly.

The RACV Community Foundation has always recognised the critical role that communities play in providing a safety net and support network for all Victorians, according to RACV general manager of community and corporate responsibility Thanuja Gunatillake.

“In 2018, the foundation’s grants structure and focus was reset to drive greater social impact by targeting programs that help build more connected and cohesive communities,” Thanuja says.

The foundation gave grants ranging from $14,000 to $150,000 in 2018 for diverse programs including support for families with premature babies, food gardens for students in public housing, equipment for workshops employing people with disabilities and school lunches for those in need. More than 40 per cent was distributed to organisations in rural and regional Victoria.

RACV Community Foundation

To read more about the RACV Community Foundation and the other community groups it supports, go to the annual review at