Yusniza immigrated to Australia over seven years ago to work on a dairy farm, choosing to live in Shepparton for the English language support it offered for her young children when they first arrived. She loves Shepparton for its range of op shops and Asian groceries which she often takes advantage of to find ingredients for her home-cooking as well as beautiful fascinators to accessorise with. As the eldest child growing up in a small rural village in Malaysia, Yusniza would always help her mother in the kitchen. From washing up to chopping onions, she learned to cook all of her siblings’ favourite dishes such as nasi ayam (chicken rice), and much more.
Food is not only central to her life and family but it is a part of how Yusniza expresses her colourful, lively personality. Cooking for her family, friends, and community is how she shows her love for them. For Yusniza, healthy food is made with love to celebrate life, show gratitude, and build relationships. She enjoys the company of those around her, sharing food and stories to foster connections and spread happiness.
Yusniza has a wealth of cooking experience and loves to learn and create new dishes, often inviting friends to cook different types of food for her and discussing recipes with them. Her community-minded attitude drives her to participate in many events and festivals, where she volunteers to cook things like her ever-popular curry puffs.
“I love to cook. I love sharing my food with my friends and neighbours, my community because I feel happy when people enjoy my food. When I eat other people’s food I always wonder how they made it and think about the flavours and ingredients. I like to then try to make my own version and experiment with different spices. For me, I think, I am very lucky because in Shepparton it is easy for me to get the ingredients I need in the Asian grocery shop. Or maybe my friend will go to Melbourne one day and ask me if I need something, then they can help me. I learn everything from my friends. Without them, I will not be able to improve my cooking or have a happy life. In the future, I hope to have my own food truck and cook good food for homeless people or those who need it. I hope for my children that they can learn the foods I cook and continue with my traditional food culture too.”
Produced by MAV, Greater Shepparton City Council and Point of Difference Studio, the Shepparton Culture Kitchen project is one of 5 initiatives supported through VicHealth’s Art of Good Health program. Drawing on Shepparton’s identity as Victoria’s ‘food bowl’ and its most culturally diverse regional town, Shepparton Culture Kitchen is a significant arts initiative centreing the voices of local women of colour, to build a future in which we are connected through empowering, healthy and sustainable food cultures.