The fall of BEST: Forty years of hard work now gone

BEST Community Development was set up 40 years ago as a small not-for-profit employment services co-operative and went on to achieve more for Ballarat’s disadvantaged than anyone dreamed.

But in a few short years it all came crashing down.

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At its peak, BEST CD was providing work, training and social support to people with disabilities and giving disengaged youth a chance to shine.

Many of these programs have now been lost to Ballarat and the board was expected to quietly wind up the long-standing training co-operative after transferring its Job Services Australia work to Frankston’s Skills Plus.

The move has all but closed the book on the once-celebrated non-profit after years of steady financial demise.

Ballarat Ciy councillor and police youth worker Des Hudson was involved with BEST Youthworks in Dana Street before the board recently announced the program’s closure.

It ran art, music, automotive and cooking projects for kids who struggled to engage with traditional education.

And it made a difference, said Cr Hudson, who worked with a group of about 25 young people on the Energy Breakthrough challenge.

He said students and teachers came together to design and construct a vehicle representing an energy breakthrough.

“It was a great project to see kids who had not probably ever been involved in a team environment to design, construct, present their design and then race,” Cr Hudson said.

“It was a great sense of achievement.”

He said BEST moved Youthworks to a new King Street address about 12 months ago, where kids continued to be involved in the automotive side of the program.

Cr Hudson said staff were notified of the program’s closure in December. He said it was sad to see that a project for disengaged youth had been lost to Ballarat.

“How we continue to have programs that are viable for young people that are not engaged in regular or normal school curriculum, particularly to keep young people engaged, I think is very important,” he said.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com

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