17 October 2013

Hansard of the Legislative Council




Mr FINCH - Mr President, it is never too late to learn, as we realise. That is the concept behind the University of the Third Age, or U3A, as it is sometimes called. It is like a university in the original sense of the word: communities of people who come together to learn from one another. They are learning cooperatives of retired or semi-retired people that offer many educational, creative and leisure activities to their members.

There are more than 200 autonomous branches of the University of the Third Age in Australia as we speak. One of the latest has been established in my electorate in the Tamar Valley. Caroline Richards, I must salute her, came to our community in 2010 looking for a quieter, better quality of life and settled on the West Tamar, at Deviot. Once she got the house sorted out she looked around and thought, what can I do? The only thing offered to her on the West Tamar was to learn fishing at Beauty Point. That was a little bit too passive for Caroline. She searched around and realised that U3A was more the sort of thing she wanted to get involved in but there was not one in her vicinity, so what did she do? She got a booklet from Victoria for establishing your own U3A and then went about researching in her new community, talking to people and stimulating people about this idea. I can tell you, in Rosevears the University of the Third Ageis going great guns.

The concept originally came from Toulouse in France in 1972. The idea was to bring older people into contact with academic programs at the university there. Ten years later they spread to Britain, where they embraced principles of self-help and self-determination, structuring programs and courses to meet the wishes of members. Rather than saying here are the courses for you, the members say this is what I would like to do, this is what I would like to learn. Then just draw the membership together and get those people who have skills who want to pass them on to other people who want to learn.

These principles were adopted and the concept spread to Australia, with the first U3A established in Melbourne in 1985. Tasmania entered the game in 2000. I thought it might have been earlier, but I am told that it was at Kingston, offering courses in a LINC building, and at Woodbridge, a little bit further down the channel.

The Tamar Valley concept follows the same aims of the units elsewhere: to encourage a lively learning atmosphere offering a wide range of subjects reflecting the interests of members; to organise and maintain a cooperative learning community for retired and semi-retired people on a non-profit basis; to encourage the pursuit of learning without reference to every criteria, qualifications, assessments or rewards; to arrange for voluntary tutors and teachers; and to exchange ideas with the University of the Third Age  in Australia and overseas.

The Tamar Valley university fits in well with the University of the Third Age online, so that is available now, and delivers online learning via the internet. All that is needed to study online is access to a computer with an internet connection. The Tamar Valley university was launched in February this year with Noelene Brown - it was great to have her as a guest - to epitomise that learning process for people who are moving on in years. We now have 86 members. They pay an annual fee of $40, which allows them to attend up to three classes per term. The courses offered in the first term included French, Indonesian, Tai Chi, musical appreciation and cryptic crosswords. Cryptic crosswords can baffle many us. Well, the bafflement will disappear in my electorate. It will be overcome by the people in my electorate who go to U3A. In term 2 we have wine appreciation - that is a good one - creative writing, communication skills, history and craft programs.

The courses are expanding to Beauty Point, Greens Beach, Deviot, Legana, Exeter and Beaconsfield. I am hoping that political science and parliamentary procedure will soon be added to the program and it might go a long way to help me in my bid to be re-elected in May next year.

Mr PRESIDENT - And restrict you to five minutes.

Mr FINCH - Yes. On Monday I heard Nigel Burch talk on the history of Beauty Point. Fifty people attended and it was a fabulous presentation over nearly two hours, and everyone really enjoyed it. There are many things that identify a thriving, strong community, and U3A is definitely one of them.