A Life in Botanic Gardens



13 MAY 2023

A Life in Botanic Gardens

Melburnians are rightly proud of their Royal Botanic Gardens, so it was not surprising that Saturday’s seminar, A Life in Botanic Gardens drew a big audience. It was a treat for us in today’s seminar to have a presentation by the Director and CEO of the RBGV, Professor Tim Entwisle.

Botanic gardens are places of healing, solace, and enjoyment; and a cure for the world’s ills according to Professor Entwisle.

Having discovered his passion for plant botany at university his stellar career as a scientist and botanist made him an internationally recognised plant scientist, part of an international science community and took him to very different but fabulous botanic gardens around the world from Padua in Italy to Kew Gardens, to Sydney botanic gardens and finally Melbourne. He indicated that he had been a regular visitor to China where a significant number of botanic gardens are being developed. He mentioned Mexico and more. He was able to bring this inspiration to his work as director of botanic gardens in Sydney, London, and Melbourne.

As well as being a prolific author he brings his message to a wider audience through regular radio broadcasts.

We learnt about his passion for orchids, including (the Flying Duck Orchid (WA) the Star of Bethlehem orchid. “Every plant has a story to tell” and of his interest in marine algae (seaweed) particularly of course Entwisleia red algae.

Kerrie Cross was an enthusiastic facilitator.

See a VIDEO RECORDING of the seminar.

From Pam Caven, Saturday Seminars

Myanmar: Democracy in a complicated country



15 APRIL 2023

Myanmar is now a “failed state with an economy in shambles”, said our Saturday seminar speaker Christopher Lamb. According to him Myanmar (Burma) was once the wealthiest country in southeast Asia. People travelled from Bangkok to Rangoon to shop. Christopher pointed out that Myanmar is probably a more accurate name for the country than Burma which was used at the time of independence from Britain but related only to the central part of the country.

Christopher Lamb as the Australian diplomat to Myanmar had firsthand experience of developments in the country. He has maintained knowledge of Myanmar and is currently president of the Australia Myanmar Institute. He drew on this experience and expertise to give a detailed and fascinating account of the country’s recent history. Burma was a British colony, administered in part by the British East India Company. Following independence from Britain in 1948, the ruling military Government adopted the Westminster system of government which according to Christopher Lamb was unworkable in a country with 135 nationalities.

He traced the successive and mostly disastrous military coups that dominated the history of Burma (Myanmar from 1988) post-independence culminating in the most brutal military coup of 2020. He described the various political and military leaders and the history of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (daughter of the hero of the independence movement who was assassinated in 1947) and her emergence in 1988 as the popular leader of the democratic movement. Despite her electoral success the military ultimately took power in a brutal fashion. Christopher acknowledged the dire state of Myanmar currently, but he is hopeful that the military will ultimately lose power. He is still working on the basis that democracy can be achieved in a complicated country.

The seminar facilitator was Rhonda Boyle.

See the VIDEO of the seminar.

Here are Christopher Lamb’s SLIDES.

Pam Caven, Saturday Seminars

Is it through politics that we define the soul of a nation?



18 MARCH 2023

Frank Bongiorno is an acute observer of the Australian political “soul”. He spoke to his most recent publication, Dreamers and Schemers; a political history of Australia.

For most of us we tend to see the beginnings of Australian “political” life at Federation, or perhaps earlier when the colony of New South Wales was sectioned into colonies or states after 1850. But Frank takes the story back much further to the political organisation of the first Nations. What seemed to some Europeans as “disorder” and a lot of babble and talking over each other, was in fact a different form of order.

He then talked of the early European settlement period when authoritarian structures were the game of the day, fearful as many were of the French Revolution and Napoleon, and the American revolt lest they infect locals, especially ex-convicts.

But the second half of the 19th century, he suggests, was one of emerging radicalism, often helped by people such as the Symes of The Age newspaper.  But what Australians grappled with in developing their political structures was to meld Westminster structures with Australian geophysical conditions, which also involved including some aspects of American political structures. He felt the Federal “Federation” structure is evidence of this. In this way some political Australian political “protocols” were developed which, for example, came into play when it was discovered that Scott Morrison has transgressed these demarcations in secretly usurping several ministries.

He also saw in the radical 19th century politics of European Australia, the emergence of political possibilities for women, though this is perhaps better understood by a review rather than at the time. Indeed there were hints, as well as actual voting rights well before the official introduction around the first decade of the 20th century.

But for a better understanding of the misogynistic drivel around this topic, you will need to refer to the chapter The New Australia in Frank’s book. Indeed, one of the delights of Frank’s somewhat hefty tome is the fascinating detail of significant political episodes, and political actors (and their words), all written in an entertaining and often amusing style.

The political hot potato of Free Traders versus Protectionists was also both a symptom of and outcome of these “radical” movements, though it was economic protection, not people protection, which held the floor, as seen in the evolution of the White Australia policy.

While the 1930s evidenced more of the radicalism in, for example, Ben Chifley and the pugilistic Jack Lang, post-World War 2 saw a shift to conservatism as demonstrated in the Prime Ministership of Menzies.

Frank’s book tells the story in much more detail – almost mind-blowing detail. It is full of facts and anecdotes of “little-known facts about well-known people” which give colour and dimension to the way in which the political heart and soul of Australia developed.

A VIDEO RECORDING of the seminar can be viewed.

Max Nankervis
Saturday Seminar Facilitator

Germany after Merkel



    18 FEBRUARY 2023

Germany after Merkel has changed.

Dr Joseph Hajdu in a highly informative Saturday seminar spoke about Germany post Angela Merkel.

Dr Hajdu described how Angela Merkel served as German Chancellor for 16 years before making the decision to resign. After her departure, Germany the economic powerhouse of Europe had a new “traffic light” Coalition Government comprising the Social Democrats (Red), Liberal Democrats (Yellow), and Greens (Green) led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The charismatic and charming Merkel had been replaced, as Dr Hajdu noted, by a dour but experienced politician from Northern Germany. It was Olaf Scholz ‘s time. It was his task to ensure that the personalities, aspirations, and policies of the Coalition partners melded to achieve effective government.

As Dr Hajdu indicated the transition since Angela Merkel affectionately known as “Mutti” (German for “Mom”) was not easy. The new Government was confronted by two major crises, the advent of COVID and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The era of Merkel had ended. Where Merkel sought to lock Russia into peace via trade the “sleepy giant Germany” reacted to changed circumstances. Scholz maintained that Putin had destroyed European values. The Government now supported a military build-up (an about face after the legacy of World War II). Commercially it sought to protect its industry by seeking alternative sources of gas moving away from Russia but paying three times as much. Overall Dr Hajdu outlined how in response to these crises the German Coalition Government had achieved a common purpose and risen to the occasion.

A VIDEO RECORDING of the seminar can be viewed.

From Pam Caven, Saturday Seminars

Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency



19 NOVEMBER 2022

The Money Revolution: Cryptocurrency, Central Bank Digital Currencies, and the future of finance.

The final U3APP seminar for 2022, Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency was a brain teaser.

We were in safe hands in this introduction to our potential future. Our presenter, Joel Emery is an expert in the field, a lawyer and Oxford graduate who has worked in companies using cryptocurrency and adopting blockchain technology on a range of crypto/blockchain legal matters.

Joel explored the history, development purpose of crypto currency. He explained that Cryptocurrency is digital money processed through a digital database (blockchain) It is a peer-to-peer electronic approach using smart technology

He pointed out that Bitcoin was the first of many cryptocurrencies and associated. blockchain technology; that it emerged as a distributed rather than a centralised approach in 2009 because of disillusionment with the traditional banks following the Global Financial Crisis.

Joel also outlined the pros and cons of both cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and discussed why FTX collapsed? Is cryptocurrency just a home to speculators? Because the market is currently immature, is it in need of more comprehensive regulation?

Our thanks to Max Nankervis for his very insightful, searching, illuminating and at times provocative questions in Q&A and for organising Joel to make the presentation.

Now you are ready for that dinner party conversation or indeed perhaps to begin trading or consider buying your new Tesla with cryptocurrency.….

See the video of Joel’s presentation HERE.

From Pam Caven

Picasso Part 2



22 OCTOBER 2022

In this second lecture on the Melbourne NGV Winter Masterpieces exhibition, The Picasso Century, Dr Michael Adcock offered insights into Picasso’s middle and late works, encompassing the narrative of Picasso’s art and influence from the 1920s. He illustrated Picasso’s development through the Exhibition’s contents and explained how they came about.

The aftermath of the World War upheaval wrought major changes in social and artistic worlds. The surrealist and modernist movements influenced Picasso’s depiction of the human figure. This presentation also covered some lesser-known modernist painters represented in the NGV exhibition: André Masson, Suzanne Valadon (best known to many as the pretty young girl in Renoir‘s The Dancers), the American Dorothea Tanning, and the Russian Natalia Goncharova (who also created costume designs and stage sets for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes).

This second lecture continued its celebration of the important women in Picasso‘s life: Marie-Thérèse Walter, who introduced a new note of dreamy sensuality to Picasso’s nude studies; Dora Maar, a painter and modernist photographer who also documented the evolution of Picasso’s Guernica, a political painting that expressed his volcanic eruption of rage at the slaughter of the people of the town of Guernica in 1937 by General Franco; and Françoise Gilot, another modernist painter who, at age 100, is still alive and still painting.

Picasso continued to experiment and create extensively in all media until his death in 1973. A colourful life, and an epic career, indeed!

U3A Port Phillip has been a fortunate beneficiary of Dr Adcock’s generosity with regular contributions to our Saturday Seminars. His scholarly approach to the arts, both its history and critically, continues to be appreciated by our member audiences.

See a VIDEO of Dr Adcock’s presentation.

From Mark Denniston of Saturday Seminars.

The Uluru Statement and a Voice to Parliament



8 OCTOBER 2022

What a privilege it was to welcome Senator Patrick Dodson, the Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement, to our screens for U3A Port Phillip’s very special Seniors’ Festival Saturday Seminar. As one of the three senior politicians making up Parliament’s Working Group on the Voice to Parliament Referendum, and a highly respected community member, Senator Dodson is uniquely placed to speak with knowledge, wisdom and authority on this hugely important issue. He did not disappoint.

Introduced by facilitator Rosemary Rule, the Co-Chair of Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation, as the Father of Reconciliation and a “national living treasure”, Senator Dodson set the context for the need for an Indigenous Voice. He gave us an informative and moving account of the history and experiences of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples since colonisation in 1788.

He touched on topics such as the infamous doctrine of Terra Nullius and the successful Mabo judgement. He also talked about the 1967 referendum which voted to change the Constitution so that, like all other Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would be counted as part of the population, and the Commonwealth would be able to make laws for them.

Now that the current government is actively committed to holding a referendum, Senator Dodson described this as a moment in our history that we can’t afford to pass up. “Wouldn’t it be a great thing in our country to exercise our vote for a Voice for First Nations peoples so that they can speak on behalf of themselves on policy?” he said, inviting all Australians to walk with the Aboriginal people to create their voice in the Constitution.

One interesting aspect of his talk, and the subject of a couple of questions from the audience, was the issue of the well-publicised opposition to a referendum by some of the other First Nations politicians. The Senator pointed out that all politicians of whatever background have to speak for, and represent, their constituents and their party, regardless of their personal views. He also described the need to update the Machinery Act, which governs the rules relating to referenda, as well as the overriding need to get agreement on the words in the referendum.

This was a highly informative, measured and thought-provoking seminar, spoken from the heart with clarity and impact, and is well worth tuning into if you were unable to hear it live.

For those of you interested in further discussions on this important topic, there will be a public forum on the Referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament presented by Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation in the St Kilda Town Hall at 6.30pm on Thursday 3 November 2022. Details are on their website: www.ppcfr.org

A video of Senator Dodson’s talk is HERE.

Sheila Quairney
on behalf of Pam Caven, Seminar organiser

Are we there yet, the end of climate wars?




We were fortunate to have Tony Wood AM, the Grattan Institute’s Director of Energy and Climate Change as our seminar speaker on 17 September. Tony Wood led us through the intricacies of the energy/climate debate, including the safeguard mechanism, in a clear and considered way.

What a tale Tony told. He began his presentation by outlining the fraught history of the climate change story in Australia, a country rich in natural resources. He focussed on the period from 2007 with election of the Rudd Government to the election of the new Federal Government in 2022. By and large it is a story of lost opportunity and conflict in which the strongest lesson was “Politics always trumps policy” and that any window of opportunity is only open for a short time.

The new Federal Government has learnt that lesson and has taken action quickly and with support from the Greens and David Pocock has recently passed legislation that has enshrined a target of 43 % and established a carbon budget . Tony stressed that the carbon budget for the period 2021 to 2030 is 4381 mmt, so that any increases in emissions over that time must be overcome by decreases to that amount of 4381mmt. For example, any increases by industry must be balanced by decreases in some or all other sectors of our economy. Overall, an important and timely seminar with clear messages for Government.

  • Take the simplest approach to the safeguard mechanism
  • Determine a clear link between targets and policies
  • Sort out priority gas issues
  • Coordinate leadership on policies
  • Establish emission standards for light vehicles

Linda Condon U3APP tutor ably facilitated the seminar and managed a wide-ranging list of questions from participants. A copy of Tony Wood’s slides in PDF format is HERE.

Here is a VIDEO of the Seminar.

Report by Pam Caven, Saturday Seminars

Prospects for the Albanese prime ministership in a changing political landscape



20 AUGUST 2022

Living through momentous times in Australian politics

The Saturday seminar, Prospects for the Albanese Prime Ministership in a changing political landscape, as Sheila Quairney pointed out would follow a different format. It was to be a flowing conversation between James Walter and Zareh Ghazarian, chaired by Graeme Davison, all academics from Monash University.

What a conversation! Clear, insightful and evidence based. James and Zareh drawing on their considerable research. Graeme shaping and provoking the conversation.

Topics ranged from how the lessons from the Federal Election of 2019 shaped Albanese ‘s pitch as a safe pair of hands, across his agenda for change to the civility of parliament. Once in power his government was confronted by a range of challenges including the pandemic, cost of living and China/USA tensions. The Prime Minister’s first promise signalled a new social justice approach, to honour the Uluru Statement, via a referendum. The speakers surmised that this was aspirational and brave.

Labor was assisted in its recent electoral success by an Opposition with a threadbare agenda. The Liberal party is now hollowed out, not helped by the events of the last week.

A lesson the speakers took from the 2022 election was that for MPs to  succeed they need the support of their community (think Teals and independents). Party membership is faltering; city suburban/ country fault lines are fraying. The bases for the political parties are now changing. The need for a strong and well-resourced public service is evident. Voters seem to want a pragmatic and civil approach to politics. There was a certain yearning by the panelists for the promise of a leader in a black leather jacket, that didn’t eventuate.

Overall, a triumphant webinar by an impressive triumvirate.

You can view a VIDEO of Seminar here.

Report by Pam Caven, Saturday Seminars

The Picasso Century Part 1



6 AUGUST 2022

Dr Michael Adcock, social and cultural historian in the 6 August U3APP seminar, The Picasso Century gave us some wonderful tools to inform our visit to the National Gallery of Victoria’s current blockbuster exhibition.

How to capture the artistic achievements of Pablo Picasso? Michael borrowed from Winston Churchill’s description of Russia “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

Michael attempted to deconstruct the riddle – the child prodigy born in Barcelona, tutored by his artist father who finds his artistic flowering in turn of the century Paris. Picasso was a student of the old masters at the Louvre, drew inspiration from fellow artists, literati, street life, travel, African masks and of course collaborators and lovers. In the period covered in the seminar (1889 until 1918) Picasso’s work went through significant stages – frenzied lover of modern life, blue period, rose period, “primitive” phase, cubism. What an insight we received into this versatile, complex, and capricious great man.

Michael is keen for people to visit the Exhibition. His advice- avoid the crowds, give yourself time, if necessary, borrow an NGV folding chair.

We are indebted to Mark Denniston, U3APP member and art lover for organising and facilitating another wonderful presentation by Dr Adcock.

 A video recording of seminar is available HERE

Report by Pam Caven

How to Enrol

On-line: after bookings have opened

On-line enrolments are preferred as this significantly reduces the amount of back-office work for our volunteers.

  • Login to the U3APP.org.au website.
  • Go to the Courses & Enrolling page.
  • Scroll down to find the course that you are interested in.
  • Does the course have spaces available?
    • Click on the course name to go to the booking page.
    • Click on “Book for this course or event”.
    • You will receive a confirmation email.  Please check your Junk/Spam folders as these automatically-generated emails often finish up there.
  • OR is the course shown as FULL?
    • Click on WAITLIST.

Paper Enrolment Form: before bookings open for First Semester

  • Obtain a paper Enrolment Form either from the Office or by printing an online copy available here.
  • Complete the paper Enrolment Form and submit it to the Office.

The start date for acceptance of paper Enrolment Forms for first semester is published on the U3APP website and in the e-Bulletin. Enrolment Forms received before this date are treated as though they had been received on the start date (ie there is no advantage to be gained by submitting early). On the start date and thereafter, paper Enrolment Forms are numbered in order of receipt.  Paper Enrolment forms are processed by U3APP volunteers on the same day as on-line bookings.

If your enrolment is successful, you will receive a confirmation email.  Please check your Junk/Spam folders as these automatically-generated emails often finish up there.

If your enrolment is unsuccessful,  you will receive an email telling you that you have been waitlisted.

Via the Office: after bookings have opened

  • Contact the office in person, or by email or phone.