6 Jul 2021

Caroline McDonald manages The Shared Cup cafe in the Olivine Estate, Donnybrook. A social enterprise that is focused on building the community, the cafe is located adjacent to the Gumnut Park and Playground and the Mirvac showrooms, at the entrance to the estate.

Caroline, a trained chef, has been in the hospitality business for her whole life, running her own cafe for 11 years, then joining the team at Warrandyte’s similar charity and social enterprise cafe, Now and Not Yet. When Mirvac approached Now and Not Yet to help develop a commercial cafe focused on community development and relationship building, Caroline was excited to play her part. Her experience with the supportive community in Warrandyte has given her high hopes for The Shared Cup.

The Olivine estate population is growing and Caroline wants the cafe to be a community hub, a place where people can meet and discuss life’s joys and dramas. She has big plans, including Community Food Nights where a home cook from the estate is welcomed into The Shared Cup kitchen and cooks a meal using ingredients provided by the cafe. The plan is to then invite everyone in the neighbourhood to come and share a meal. Olivine has such a multicultural population so Caroline is hoping that curry will be first on the menu, then pizza and soups. She is open to suggestions for any cuisine that will be enjoyed by members of the community.

The park and playground bring a lot of people to the cafe but there are customers dropping in regularly from the neighbouring suburbs because the Shared Cup is such a welcoming space. There’s free Wifi, powerpoints for charging devices and, Caroline says, customers are welcome to order a coffee and sit for hours on their computers, so it could be a good place to work from home (but not at home).

The Shared Cup offers breakfast and lunch, 7 days a week, and a dinner service on the first Friday of the month. Plans are underway for a takeaway evening on the 3rd Friday of the month.

The cafe favourite, Smashed Avo is popular here, and the Olivine Breakfast Board – a big sharing board for two people, with bacon, eggs, hotcakes and all sorts of goodies, is big enough for a family to share. Specials change weekly, but the quality of the food, the calibre of the coffee, and the excellent service is consistent.

Caroline says that everyone at The Shared Cup takes a lot of pride in their coffee. The brew, from Melbourne Coffee Traders, is fresh and rich enough to give the caffeine fix that patrons will love.

Caroline acknowledges that living in a new area is a challenge for people – new builds mean lots of dust, and there are lots of jobs to do around home. She’s enjoying watching the people of the suburb come together and develop their networks. “At the Shared Cup we are doing everything we can to build a sense of community,” she says.

If you want to be part of this initiative, just drop in and have a chat. If you want to start a book club or have other ideas for engaging the community, any and all suggestions will be welcomed. She and the Olivine Reference Group are always trying to improve life on the estate and are looking for ideas to make the community sustainable.

Caroline’s hot tip for visitors to the estate is a walk around the ornamental lake to enjoy the birdlife and natural environment.