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Banyule City Council has partnered with the brotherhood of St Laurence since 2016 to deliver the Stepping Stones program, a micro-enterprise program for refugee and disadvantaged migrant women.  The program builds upon women strengths and experiences through an empowerment pathways program giving women the confidence and knowledge of the implications of starting a small business in Australia.

Through the program, participants have successfully started businesses in several areas including, making and selling goods, catering and professional services. Due to COVID-19 many of the Stepping Stones businesses were impacted by not being able to carry out their normal business operations as markets closed and events stopped. Many were able to pivot their skills into mask making which enabled them to maintain a source of income.

Banyule’s María Alejandra Valenzuela (pictured left) has pivoted from making jewellery running jewellery classes to making masks using predominantly Australian floral designs and selling them on Etsy.

Mikoto Araki is a resident of Heidelberg Heights (pictured bottom right). She is Japanese and an interpreter by trade. She’s a zero waste enthusiast community cook and a permaculturist. As a result of COVID-19, mask making is something she’s now also doing on the side.


You can buy affordable, reusable face masks made by women from migrant and refugee backgrounds across Victoria who are part of the Stepping Stones to Small Business Program. 100% of profits goes directly to the maker.

You can support Maria and other Stepping Stones participants today by buying a mask HERE