From the street, Parliament on King looks like the many other cafes in Newtown, a bohemian inner suburb of Sydney.

But behind the cheery shop front, it is a very different story. The cafe is a social enterprise, doubling as a hospitality school for refugees, asylum seekers and recent arrivals to Australia.

"Sometimes the things that people choose to share, the stories can be the most harrowing, difficult (things to hear that) you don't know what to say or what to do," said Ravi Prasad, who with his wife Della opened Parliament on King in 2013.

In its short existence, the cafe has trained roughly 250 people from 14 countries, including Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Many heard about the cafe through word of mouth, referred to it by friends or family.

"To me, that says it's working because (the trainees) like it enough to want to share it with their family," said Prasad, a former advertising executive.

Growing up in Australia as the son of a Fijian-Indian father, Prasad had not always been involved with refugees and asylum seekers, but said race relations had "always been an issue of mine."

The cafe -- which can seat, at most, 15 customers -- was originally Prasad's living room, and is lined with old books and Polaroid photos, giving it a cozy, cluttered charm.

During the day, people work and are trained in the cafe: serving coffees, and Australian comfort foods like cheese toasties and fairy bread, a children's birthday party specialty consisting of white bread, butter and sprinkles.

In the kitchen, many more help with event catering, making foods from their countries of origin.

"We take someone who is used to cooking dinner for their family, and we teach them, over time, to cook for 100-200 people at the same quality, in the same way they want to do it, but with greater efficiency," said Prasad.

"So, you're essentially paid to work, but you're also paid to train."

According to Prasad, the authentic cooking style can make Parliament on King's catering more expensive than some competitors, but the flavor more than makes up for the bill.

"One of our Sri Lankan chefs, he wants to use coconut milk. But you don't buy it, you press it," he said. "It's time-consuming and labor-intensive, but it's beautiful."

Operating as a social enterprise, Parliament on King receives no funding from the federal government or external organizations, but is supported by a wide variety of customers.

In the span of one week, Prasad said the cafe provided catering for a Jewish community group, a left-wing lobby group and an event held by the conservative New South Wales state premier.

One of the many asylum seekers to come through Ravi's doors is Hani, a bubbly 22-year-old from Somalia.

"It's somewhere that you work, but also you love," said Hani, who asked to be identified by her first name only.

"You're not different than anyone else. It's beautiful. I don't know if I can work somewhere else."

Hani was just 17 years old when she paid a people smuggler and boarded a boat in Indonesia, along with 45 other people aiming to seek asylum in Australia.

Leaving her family behind in Somalia, Hani made the eight-day sea journey alone.

"I think there's no mother or father who (would) ever want their child to go on a boat journey. But they didn't have that much choice to let me stay because of all the destruction around them," she said, referring to the civil war that has raged in Somalia nearly without pause for almost three decades.

"You're gambling with yourself. You're putting yourself into that boat but you don't know, actually, what's ahead," Hani continued.

"You think, it's between two (options): either you die on the water or you survive and you just do what you want to do."

Australia has accepted many refugees over the years, with 27,626 settling in the country in 2016 alone under its resettlement program.

However since 2013, would-be refugees traveling to Australia by boat -- like Hani -- have been sent to offshore detention centers in neighboring countries for processing, without the possibility of resettlement in Australia.

Hani, who is studying to complete high school, says Parliament on King has helped her find a place to call home.

"Even though I come by myself, I found a family. I found people who love me and who also help me to do my homework!" she said of Prasad, whom she calls her "hidden father."

As well as providing an opportunity for people to connect socially, Prasad says the cafe also demonstrates the professional standards the new Australians should expect at work.

"These guys do get exploited, so we set a benchmark for their expectations of the workplace in terms of how people are treated, how they're paid," he said.

Prasad also encourages the trainees to further their qualifications, sending employees who are confident in their English to complete certificate courses in the hospitality industry.

Although Hani jokes that she will still be working in Prasad's cafe when she is in her 90s, she has her sights set on helping to correct the injustices she sees in the world, and becoming an investigative journalist or human rights lawyer.

"I want to help those people that I left behind and I guess the only way that I can do that is to study hard and surround myself with people like Ravi who fight for justice and always want to be there for other people."