25 MARCH 2022

Determination, Imagination and Organisation: The story of U3A Port Phillip and its people

These were fitting words expressed by President Sheila Quairney when she welcomed  contributors to the publication, founding members and guests to the launch of U3APP’s newest publication: a publication that acknowledges the efforts of so many people and tracks the growth of the organisation over the 19 years since its inception.

From the initial six founding members working around their kitchen tables, the fledgling organisation grew to an impressive membership of 778 in 2021, and currently offers members a choice of 90 broad-ranging courses. It has been a true success story. The publication tells of countless volunteers engaged in a broad range of important roles almost too numerous to mention: volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure the organisation flourished. It has, from its inception, provided a place of learning: learning of many kinds and the publication emphasises that strongly. Importantly, there is a continuous thread throughout the story about the sense of community, belonging and support that the organisation always has, and continues to provide. Personal stories within stories have been and remain the fabric of the organisation. Thus, this excellent publication weaves a complex pattern of survival and growth, of colour and diversity, of excitement, newness and continuity.

With just the appropriate amount of pomp and ceremony, the book was officially launched by Freda Erlich, Chair of the City of Port Phillip’s Older Persons Advisory Committee, the body appointed by the Council to advise on issues that affect the health and well-being of older people in the city. U3APP must be one of the jewels in its crown because it was a small subgroup from that advisory group that convened a public meeting to gauge interest in establishing a U3A in Port Phillip in August 2003. That was the catalyst for what we have today. Within 3 months, the embryonic U3A Port Phillip ‘went public’ to great acclaim with an inaugural event featuring internationally renowned Melbourne astrophysicist Doctor Andrew Prentice.  This was the first of the ongoing Saturday Seminars Series that was intended to and still attracts attention from the wider community.

U3APP opened its doors to take enrolments in February 2004 with courses starting the following month. Eighteen courses were offered in that first semester and some are still running. It has not looked back – but you should read the story for yourselves. The story is indeed about 19 years of determination, imagination and organisation. And that determination came to the fore in 2020 when COVID hit. Over the ensuing 2 years, when many organisations and groups around them were floundering, they quickly rallied forces and with a lot of effort and organisation many courses went online very successfully.  It was no mean feat.  What a triumph, attesting to the foresight and skills of the management committee and a small group of dedicated members. The story of how this was achieved and how the organisation adopted a new and IT-savvy approach to running the organisation is mapped out in the book.  It was a mighty effort. But you really should read the story yourselves!  The COVID working group, the ‘Gang of Three’ – Pam Caven, Jim Pribble and Diane Boyle – were deservedly awarded Meritorious Service awards for their work. They gathered around them an impressive team to produce this publication. They are to be heartily congratulated as are all those who contributed.

At this special launch event and paying homage to the organisation were Josh Burns, Federal Member for Macnamara, and Marcus Pearl, Mayor of the City of Port Phillip. Both congratulated the organisation and particularly its members, each emphasising the importance of the organisation to the City of Port Phillip. They acknowledged the contribution that U3APP has made and continues to make to the welfare of older people in the area and wished it well for the years to come.


At the launch three awards were presented personally to people who were unable to attend the 2021 award presentations at the Christmas party. Barbara Fisher was awarded Life Membership, and Heather Wheat and Lindsay Doig were presented with Meritorious Service awards.


It was a happy occasion, superbly catered by Sandra Mason and her team, touched with nostalgia and a little sadness that the inaugural president, Ron Ashbolt, was not there sharing the limelight. It was, however, a joyous celebration of an excellent account of a marvellous organisation.

Report by Heather Wheat, photographs by Barry McIntosh

The story is available as an online book or a printed book.

The printed book is available to borrow from the U3APP office and, in due course, from the local and state libraries.  The printed book can also be purchased through Amazon.  Find it by going to  https://www.amazon.com.au/  and typing in “The story of U3APP” in the search.

The online book is available on our website, click here.



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.