Cooking up opportunities
 Baw Baw Features   Baw Baw News  

By // 10:48, Tuesday 19 May 2015

yooralla cooking class drouin by jack m lacy for warragul baw baw citizen

A NEW cooking program for people with learning disabilities has started in Drouin.

Above: Students and staff involved in the cooking program at Yooralla Drouin. Photo: Jack Lacy

First published in the 24 April 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Click here to read the full edition online.

Taught by Warragul man Darren McNally, the weekly classes are a joint venture between Community College Gippsland and support service Yooralla.


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Mr McNally said the main goal of the classes was to encourage community access and enhance the lives of students.

“I run a multi-pronged program, which encompasses everything from the paddock to the plate,” he told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.

“We went to a beef farm to see how it operates and… made a visit to the butcher.

“In the coming months we will be visiting a sale yard, vegetable farm and a restaurant, where the students will participate in a masterclass and eat the product that they have made.”

Mr McNally has owned his own catering and party hire business for 13 years and has worked for 23 years in the hospitality industry.

He said he believed his program provided students with an opportunity to learn vital skills in a practical environment.

“The class gives students hands-on experience and teaches them necessary life skills including reasoning and arithmetic, as well as basic business principles,” he said.

“The students also learn kitchen skills, food safety and how to use equipment.

“They go from having no prior knowledge to learning everything there is to know.”


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The students who participate in the classes differ in background and the nature of their disability.

“The program is open to anyone with a disability,” Mr McNally said.

“Some of the students live at home with their families, while others live with carers or in assisted living accommodation.”

Mr McNally has worked for Community College Gippsland for the last two years, teaching classes in Morwell and Leongatha and this year at Yooralla in Drouin as well.

“Three or four years ago I had no idea I would be taking this path, but I love it,” he said.

“My work is extremely rewarding and the students get a lot out of it.”

The scope of the program has been made broader with support from local businesses.

“We received tills donated from Mirboo North Hotel, which were switched over for ‘like new’ ones by Evans Electronics,” Mr McNally said.

“The tills will be incorporated into the program so students can learn how to handle money.”

“Luke from Moreland’s Meats also gave us an excellent lesson on how to butcher a lamb and how to make sausages.”

“I will be running our first community café with the students in May. This is something that has proven to be very successful when done previously with the group from Leongatha.”

The program may be in its infancy, but Mr McNally said he hoped it would grow in years to come.


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“In Leongatha I run a similar class. A number of the students have had work placements and part time work, partly as a result of this class,” he said.

“The Leongatha group ended up writing their own recipes and were able to apply the skills they learnt to cook for both their cafés and other catering/functions they do and also cook meals at home.

“I have high expectations for the Drouin group. They are embracing the new skills and knowledge and are enjoying the program very much.

“I am sure this program will enhance the lives of all the students and help them with any path they may choose to take in the future.”

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One response to “Cooking up opportunities”

  1. Frank Beamlsh says:

    This is fantastic what a great guy you are, let me know when you get the cafe running would love to come visit.Cheers