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Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre

Our Kitchen Social Enterprise

Workforce Development and Integration

Our Kitchen Social Enterprise (OKSE) operates from the Ballarat South Community Hub commercial kitchen on Monday, Thursday and Friday 9am to 2pm, excluding public holidays and school holidays.

OKSE is a work force development and integration training program. Its primary role is to provide practical work experience and training to long term unemployed clients referred from the Jobs Victoria Work & Learning Centre and Workforce Australia partners. These participants will build their employability skills and develop new pathways to education or employment.


Partially funded by the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry, and Regions (DJSIR), it involves participants undertaking Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) hospitality focused courses. Students who undertake the ‘Cooking Up Jobs’ Course, work with David, a qualified chef and TAFE teacher, learning basic kitchen skills and preparing meals for the weekly community lunches. Along the way, they develop friendships, build in confidence, develop their resumes, and explore career pathways.

Community Lunches

On Fridays during school terms, OKSE provides a sit down weekly community lunch. This is prepared and served by volunteers and students undertaking the ‘Cooking for the Community’ and ‘Front of House’ courses. The low cost meal attracts between 80 -100 people each week, with many older community members enjoying the two course healthy lunch. Everyone is welcome to attend and we encourage you to wear your comfy pants as the lunches are generous.


Our catering is yet to return after being significantly impacted by the 2020 pandemic lockdowns. At this stage we are focusing on internal catering and plan to restart the catering later in 2024.

Social Traders

Since 2018, OKSE has been a certified Social Traders social enterprise. As a certified social enterprise, know you are creating genuine impact when working with OKSE and your support is helping to create a fairer and more equitable Australia.

Our History

Established in April 2017 with a Department of Education & Training Capacity and Innovation Fund Grant and a City of Ballarat Social Enterprise Grant, Our Kitchen Social Enterprise (OKSE) started as a two day per week, 16-week employability skills development course, called Enterprising Communities.

A catering social enterprise, it serviced local community members, organisations, and businesses. The multicultural menu used fresh produce from Our Kitchen Community Garden, located at the Ballarat South Community Hub, and Second Bite rescued food from local supermarkets.

In 2018, Enterprising Communities was restructured to became Cooking up Jobs, and a 16-week Commercial Kitchen Skills course was added. During the year Our Kitchen Social Enterprise (OKSE) was created to encompass all our hospitality training and became a Social Traders certified social enterprise.

A Victorian State Government Multicultural Capacity Building and Participation grant funded a new Baking with Language Skills course in 2019. In addition, two years funding from the RE Ross Trust allowed OKSE programs to run five days per week from January 2019. The social enterprise was growing with 2020 predicted to be our first operating surplus from catering activities. Then in 2020, during the Coronavirus pandemic, catering and community lunches ceased, along with all revenue streams from OKSE activities.

To continue providing workforce development training for our participants, the program was repositioned in April 2020 to make and distribute free meals to the community. Initially planned for just six weeks, the free meals program ran throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

Working in partnership with the members of the Ballarat Food Access Network, local Salvation Army Corps and Ballarat Soupbus we delivered a much-needed service during some very difficult times for our community.

This modified approach to the OKSE activities not only provided thousands of free meals to vulnerable people and supported a diverse student cohort to complete their employment training, it also helped our amazing group of volunteers form lifelong friendships.

In 2021, as the ramifications of the pandemic continued, the social enterprise was fortunate to receive a three year grant from The Ian Potter Foundation to help fund its low cost community meals and restart the catering business. During the next two years, the focus was on providing 80-100 low cost community meals each week to the older members of the community. With cost of living impacting our community, OKSE maintained the $10 lunch cost from 2019 to ensure no one went hungry.

OKSE Today

Today the program is a valued and highly regarded social enterprise providing a range of benefits to participants. It not only continues to achieve amazing employment outcomes for our job seekers but feeds our community, builds lifelong friendships and creates opportunities for people to be involved supporting a worthy community project. 

In 2024, OKSE is slowly rebuilding its programs adding a Men’s Cooking class and has plans to restart its catering business, build a new website, update its recipes and much more.

Supporters, Sponsors & Donors

Over its lifetime, OKSE has been supported by a wide range of government, philanthropic, community, and business organisations. In addition, it is not uncommon for community members to just drop in food, vouchers, kitchen items and even cash donations to support the program. Without this amazing support it would not be possible to for us to help so many people in so many ways.

We take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in supporting Our Kitchen Social Enterprise.