It all started with a meeting over coffee in downtown Ballarat in March 2023. Daniel Teba, one of Gellibrand’s longest serving Support Workers, met with local people interested in being part of a Ballarat-based social group for people with disability.

“It was hard in Ballarat to find places like this, especially for older clients,” said Nigel, who attended the café meeting and is now part of the social group. Daniel Teba said Gellibrand had “introduced something new and there was a need for it.”

After that initial meeting, the group started with a core of regular attendees. With Daniel’s support and encouragement, they have enjoyed trips to Lake Wendouree, Lal Lal Falls, Daylesford, Eureka Centre, Creswick, and St George’s Lake.

“We’re off our P-plates now,” Cheryl laughed when asked about the group’s development. She’s been part of it from the outset and loves the baking they often do, including a four-layer lemon and passionfruit meringue cake they teamed together to create.

Daniel said the group had become as much a friendship group now as a social group. “They established their relationship together through the weekly gathering, having chats,” he said, adding that the group put on a Christmas lunch last year at Gellibrand’s Albert Street base in Sebastopol. “They invited family members to attend and it was a real family gathering. That was really nice.”

On the day I visited, it was nearly Easter and the group was deep in the task of making hot cross buns together. Everyone pitched in confidently – stirring, finding ingredients, heating milk, measuring and, most importantly, laughing and having fun.

Robin is known for putting her culinary skills to work for the group. She came along to the café meeting because she was looking for something social for her son, Andy. She now attends with him every week. “It’s been really good,” she said. “Andy loves it.”

Tim has been coming along to the group for a few months and loves it, too. He speaks highly of Daniel and the energy he brings to the group. “He’s a good guy,” he said. “I like him. A good man.” Cheryl said Daniel is the “backbone” of the social group. “And our captain,” she laughed. Nigel, who is a photographer like Daniel, said he loves chatting with him about their shared passion.

“For myself,” Daniel said, “this group is totally different because the clients are very independent. They drive cars, they work, they don’t need any support – they only need me to organise the activities with them.”

Because the social group has been so successful, Gellibrand sensed a strong future for its services in Ballarat. It now has two shared houses with clients living in them and the organisation bought the house in Albert Street, Sebastopol, from which the social group operates – when they’re not out enjoying one of their many outings.

“We did a Town Hall tour that wasn’t normally open to the public,” Nigel said. “It was extraordinary, the metal press ceiling. It was great to see.”

When they’re out and about, the group, Cheryl included, also sometimes gets to see Cheryl – because her picture was part of a bus advertising campaign for Gellibrand in Ballarat.

“I’m still out there, I think, on the side of the bus,” she laughed.

Adventures, laughter, and celebrating friendship together. That’s what the Ballarat Social Group is all about and they all hope to enjoy each other’s company for many years to come.

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