Future of GPlace in doubt as BEST fallout continues

COMMUNITY groups are seeking answers over the future of Ballarat education and cultural centre GPlace, which has fallen into the hands of liquidators.

The former Golden Point State School in Grant Street was taken over by BEST Community Development and re-opened in 2009 as a community hub housing the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, Mount Clear College and U3A. 

Ballarat East MP Geoff Howard

Ballarat East MP Geoff Howard

It was developed with a state government grant of $850,000 and $400,000 from BEST.

But just five years on, the consortium of community groups that manage the facility fear it may be sold off by administrators, following the winding up of BEST in February.

Ballarat East MP Geoff Howard was involved in the development of GPlace and called on the state’s Treasurer during a recent parliamentary sitting to ensure the rights of the user groups were protected. 

He said consortium was concerned the community hub would be lost as the administrators looked to sell it for other purposes.

“GPlace is a learning and cultural centre which was developed with a state government grant of $850,000,” he said.

“This was provided through the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, noting that the former school would be refurbished and used ... ‘solely for community and education purposes’. 

“I also note that since that time further state government funding has been invested in the site to develop a men’s shed and a community garden.”

This week, Mr Howard said he had also written to the assistant treasurer advising him of the concerns.

He has not received a reply.

“My concern is protecting U3A, Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council and Mount Clear College,” he said.

“The site operates as a thriving hub.”

A consortium involving the three groups has managed the facility since its reopening and was established before refurbishments to the former primary school.

Mr Howard said each group had invested funds and extensive volunteer time to manage, maintain and further enhance GPlace, which was also made available to other community organisations.

The GPlace consortium has requested a meeting with the liquidators from Melbourne accountancy firm Romanis Cant in coming weeks.

The firm did not respond to The Courier’s questions before yesterday’s deadline, but in February liquidator Simon Nelson said all of the co-operative’s assets had been purchased by Skills Plus with the exception of the GPlace property and the former BEST headquarters at St Pauls Way.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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