Monday, 7 December 2020
Ballarat Electorate: Berry Street School
Last year I had the privilege of visiting Berry Street School in my electorate of Ballarat to announce a small grant for landscaping works. With the pandemic, it was almost a full 12 months before I could get back to the school to see the terrific work that they've done, but, when I finally did get back there, it was certainly well worth the wait.
For those who don't know, Berry Street Schools specialise in helping students who, for various reasons, have become disengaged with mainstream school. This could be because they've had some difficulty in their home lives, they've had really bad experiences with mainstream schools, they may have learning difficulties or they may be in out-of-home care—and there may be multiple other reasons. Berry Street works with these kids at their own pace. It gets their education back on track and keeps them engaged with the system. It is a very small school and it works at the pace that kids are at. While these kids might struggle in a mainstream classroom, their skills and personal attributes are certainly undimmed at this school.
When I saw what these kids had managed to achieve with just a few thousand dollars, I was incredibly impressed. For a relatively small amount of money, they have created for themselves a beautiful school environment. They've built a fence, created gravel pathways, planted native vegetation garden beds and, most impressively, they've built and planted round-brick vegetable patches. As someone who, over the summer, will be building a pizza oven, I know firsthand how difficult it is to actually lay bricks in the round. But this group of kids has pulled it off looking like seasoned pros. The bench seats and the round-brick vegetable beds are just fantastic.
As I spoke to the kids about their work and watched the video that they put together, including interviews and animations, their pride in what they have done was very, very evident to see—and they should be proud. Through a pretty bleak Ballarat winter, these students have worked together to build something special and they've left behind a legacy for future generations of students at Berry Street to learn from and to enjoy. They've learnt new skills, worked together and achieved something impressive at their school.
To the team at Berry Street, to all of the teachers and, most importantly, to the students, I want to tell you how incredibly proud I am of the work that you've done and how far you've stretched what was a very small grant to your community school. I really look forward to coming back in the future to see what you have grown from your garden and to have you cook me a meal.