A BALLARAT education, training and disability support institution will close its doors in December after almost 50 years in operation, leaving a gaping hole in the city's disability support services.
BRACE Education, Training and Employment Limited, which started operations in 1973, will cease to exist in Ballarat from December 11 after its parent company, Endeavour Foundation, made a strategic decision to close operations.
Endeavour Foundation's Frankston-based BRACE will continue to operate going forward.
Director Sandra Gallagher said some casual staff had already lost their jobs while another 10 would lose their positions when the centre closed.
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"It's huge for a lot of people because BRACE has been here as a community-based organisation since 1973," Dr Gallagher said.
"It was a safe learning space for students that may not have had anywhere else to go.
"This year, unlike most places which have gone online, we were trying to continue with the face-to-face interaction because many people require that.
"We have had 119 students this year, but we haven't been able to enrol anyone since April. I also run IT classes for seniors."
The Endeavour Foundation said a decision had been made to focus on wider disability and human services.
"The Endeavour Foundation board has made a strategic decision to focus on services with a close alignment to the core mission," a spokesperson said.
"The extremely difficult decision has been made to discontinue the long-established and well-respected operation of BRACE in the Ballarat community and not to commence any new training programs in Ballarat into the future.
"BRACE remains committed to existing students and is planning to wrap-up education and training operations in Ballarat by the end of the year. We are committed to support staff to identify alternative employment.
"We acknowledge the key role and significant contribution that the BRACE team have made to many lives in the Ballarat community over many years. Our focus will now be to work with our team to support them and our students through this transition period."
Throughout it's long history, BRACE has supported people from various backgrounds and abilities, including disengaged youth, migrants, long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, and those facing financial, learning or social barriers.
"There's a few people that know, but not everyone, this will come as a big shock for a lot of people. It will hit the Ballarat community hard," Dr Gallagher said.
"There wouldn't be many people in Ballarat that haven't at some point taken a course offered by BRACE."
Another service offered through BRACE was the InterClub drop-in centre, but with community assistance, that looks set to return, hopefully by January.
Longtime coordinator Margie Iafrate said the drop-in centre had 59 members, many who had not seen their friends since March.
"We closed down in March when everything hit and it was thought we'd be back soon, but I was one of the first to be made redundant in May," Ms Iafrate said.
"But I'll be reopening InterClub. We've got our application in for not-for-profit's and we're just waiting on the paper work. There's a lot of things such as NDIS registration, we've had to re-do all again.
"We've got a committee in place, hopefully we can get back some of our old members. We know it's going to be a difficult 12 months ahead."
Ms Iafrate said she was shattered that BRACE was disappearing from Ballarat.
"For me, personally, I think it's very difficult to run things from afar," she said. "You've got a get a feel of the community and Ballarat is very loyal to their own. When it comes out that the place is gone, a lot of people will be upset."
A last drinks for BRACE is planned for December 4 and the community is encouraged to get in touch should they wish to attend.