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Clarence River U3A’s Bush Walking Group, led by Col Hennessey (centre), is pictured at Jerusalem Creek, north of Iluka.

Learn, exchange ideas and make new friends at Clarence River U3A

Geoff Helisma |

Did you know that Clarence River U3A, which was established in the Lower Clarence in 2001, has over 600 members and 35 groups, who meet at venues in Maclean, Iluka and Yamba?

Seems like a lot of members, but is there such a thing as too many members of a group run by volunteers?

“No,” says president, Laura O’Brien. “We are always thinking about the variety of groups for people to join; but there is always room for more members and groups.”

What benefits does joining CRU3A bring to members’ lives?

“People thinking of retiring who are looking for activities to keep their minds active have a lot to gain – and they can meet people they may not have met.

“There are a lot of retirees here and it is a perfect way to get to know the community and make friends.

“Then there is the pleasure that volunteers get from being involved and the enormous rewards they reap by working with their groups.

“New opinions and ideas are always welcome.”

But this self-perpetuating ‘university’ cannot continue without leadership.

A management committee sets the organisation’s strategic direction, guiding activities while overseeing and ensuring effective financial management and communication.

For example, columns are regularly published in local newspapers, the CRU3A Clarion is produced three times a year and there’s a website and regular emails to various groups – every week the 150 members of the ‘A Little Bit of Culture Group’ receive an email notifying that week’s event and information about upcoming major performances.

Selecting a new committee is imminent, with CRU3A’s annual general meeting to be held on Tuesday August 27, 2019 at the Treelands Drive Community Centre at 10am.

“Members will be able to view the objects d’art on display from many of the groups and enjoy a friendly cup of tea or coffee with other members,” Ms O’Brien said.

“All committee positions are vacated and all members are invited to nominate a member (with that member’s approval) or themselves.

“The committee is very vibrant and active and is very conscious of the needs of our members.

“New opinions and ideas are always welcome.”

If you feel you have something to contribute, please contact president Laura O’Brien to discuss your nomination at [email protected]

A bit about CRU3A’s groups

There are five music-based groups – from music appreciation to choral performance to dance and instrumental activities.

For the artistically inclined there are seven variously themed groups, from pottery to lead lighting to painting.

The men’s and women’s sheds provide user friendly, precision equipment, allowing members to enjoy a broad range of craft projects.

There are literary groups for those wanting less physical activity – three book clubs, poetry, writing and family history groups are available, as well as the current affairs discussion groups and games, mah-jong and rummykub.

Each of the tutors (or group leaders) is a CRU3A member, who volunteers their time and is a fundamental leader of each group.

Outdoor activities like bushwalking, camping, Yamba walks and croquet are very popular.

The gardening group takes regular field trips, including visiting outstanding gardens within the valley and others quite distant.

The A Little Bit of Culture Group attends performances locally in the valley as well as at QPAC in Brisbane.

The Let’s All Sing group takes its programs to local facilities, performing at retirement villages and nursing homes.

Meanwhile, CRU3A is constantly seeking new tutors for possible new groups such as literature or languages, or ‘Improve My High School French’ or ‘Spanish for Travellers’, which, for example, would complement the current group, ‘Talking Travel’.

“There are special events, too, such as the free ‘Women’s Health Forum’ during International Women’s Week in 2019,” Ms O’Brien said.

“This was a half-day function where traditional and alternative speakers gave expert insight into particular health aspects for women.

“Owing to the widespread relevance of this theme, attendance was also available to non-members at a small fee.

“Attending any regular group activity provides important opportunities for social interaction and, typically, there is a tea or coffee break during meetings.

“And there are purely social events like the 2018 Christmas Gray Mardi Gras, which was a great success, a High Tea in June with entertainer Peter Capp and the upcoming Twilight Time cruise on the beautiful Clarence River in September.

“The year wraps up with the 2019 Christmas Country and Western Hoedown in early December and will feature a professional entertainer.

“These events provide opportunities for members from the spread of venues and activities to mix and mingle.

“The group leaders, who have such an important role in our organisation, enjoy an annual ‘thank you’ luncheon held in November.”

A history lesson for the ages

In 1972, the concept of U3A was developed in Toulouse France, to bring older people into contact with academic programs at the university.

Subsequently, it spread rapidly through France and throughout Europe.

The first British U3A was established in 1982, at Cambridge. However, the model had changed from university-based structured courses, to a self-help approach based on the knowledge that ‘experts’ of every kind in every field retire, so there should be no need to depend on paid tutors of either the second or third ages.

Theoretically, one’s life comprises four ages: Third Age refers to the life period of active retirement, which follows the First Age of childhood and formal education and the Second Age of working life. The fourth age is one of dependence.

The U3A Network NSW Inc. is an organisation of autonomous affiliated U3A groups in NSW and the ACT, and several more groups from interstate, who all support the general aims and directions of providing life-long learning opportunities for members in their ‘third age’, using the training and skills accumulated by contemporaries during their ‘second age’.

The A Little Bit of Culture Group is pictured at Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane.