Origin of U3A
The concept of U3A was developed in Toulouse in 1972, to bring older people into contact with academic programs at the University. It spread rapidly through France and throughout Europe. Many universities either arranged for older people to participate in existing academic programs or established new programs specifically designed for Third Age students.
The first British U3A was established in 1982 at Cambridge. In contrast with the French experience, where U3A have a close association with traditional universities, as providers of educational programs, the British U3A have developed only outreach links with the universities.
Instead, they have embraced principles of self-help and self-determination, structuring programs and courses to meet the wishes of members and drawing on resources available within the membership as far as possible. These same principles have been adopted by U3A in Australia.
Development in Australia
In July 1984, a public meeting was arranged in Melbourne to gauge public interest in U3A. As a result, the first U3A was established in Melbourne City, followed by another in Hawthorn and the first courses were offered at the beginning of 1985.
During that year two other U3As, one at Monash and one at Ringwood, were inaugurated. There are now over 60 U3As in Victoria with some 16,000 members and more than 100 Australia-wide with a total national membership exceeding 40,000.
Whilst there are common objectives shared by all U3As, there are also broad differences of interest patterns, structure and organization, determined by the particular needs of each U3A and the resources available locally to meet those needs.
U3A Southern Peninsula Began
In April 1989, a small, very enthusiastic group of Peninsula residents gathered to form a steering committee for U3A Southern Peninsula. By the end of that year we had over 100 members and 29 courses available.
To celebrate 20 years of U3A Southern Peninsula life memberships have been awarded to members of that first committee and 15 of that 1989 membership who are still members of U3ASP 20 years on.
U3A Southern Peninsula Today
We now have 800+ members and provided more than 70 activities and courses utilising the Old Shire Office, Dromana plus other venues from Rosebud to Sorrento and several private homes. Our financial position is reasonably secure, however ongoing accommodation to enable us to grow our course offerings is a continual problem.
However, as our membership continues to grow steadily, our number of courses has flattened out in recent years and will continue unless more people volunteer eg, especially for tutoring. To continue to survive, U3A SP depends upon the goodwill and generosity of its members in providing their skills, knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm in offering to run courses.
U3A Southern Peninsula success of the past 32 years was largely due to the willingness of many, many members to volunteer their time and their skills. However much more work needs to be done in shaping our large and diverse U3A to meet the needs of baby boomers as they start to make their presence felt.