The fall of BEST: Closure left gap in disability network

BALLARAT Specialist School principal John Burt says the closure of Cafe BEST left a gap in Ballarat’s disability support network that has never been filled.

The school employs two people to work with graduating students to ensure they have a work placement to go to after graduation.


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Last year 35 students left the school after turning 18 and every one of them had a placement to go to.

But Mr Burt said there was still a gap for people with a disability who were over 18. 

“The BEST cafe filled that gap,” he said.

“Some of our kids when Cafe BEST was run would be placed down there. It was very sad when it did close.

“The sad history of these services is they’re run by certain groups and financed by funds from the federal government – they run a course of 12 to 18 months and they seem to fall over,” he said.

“Someone else comes and takes over as another agency.”

"This area isn't a good vote catchment area– it's going to be a constant battle"

Mr Burt said the solution came down to resources and money – something that was a “constant battle” for the sector.

“This area isn’t a good vote catchment area– it’s going to be a constant battle for us,” he said.

The specialist school funds its own school leavers program with money from its regular budget. 

The school has just established The Bakery Cafe, a new venture for Ballarat where students with  a disability will gain real work experience under the guidance of a qualified baker.

The cafe, on Norman Street, is open to the public from 9am to 3pm.