Our Story – a brief history & a short video

A brief history

I recently caught up with Patricia McBride who, along with her husband Peter, was a founding member of the U3A network in Victoria. The U3A concept began in France in 1973 and the idea soon spread to other countries. By 1984 a steering committee had been formed in Victoria to established guidelines and promote a public meeting. In 1985 the first three U3A’s began in Melbourne City, Hawthorn and Monash (which is now Bentleigh). The following quote is taken from their first anniversary souvenir brochure in 1986:

“Third-Agers … reject the notion that older people have reached the end of their useful life at retirement. They also reject the notion that they should be completely disengaged from community life … retired people have skills, knowledge and experience to develop the organization.”

Peter McBride held the position of Vice-President until ill health forced him to stand down in 1991. Patricia, however, continued to help with administration tasks and is now an honorary member of U3A Bentleigh, and still attends classes. Patricia recalls the early days when activities were held at the rear of Monash University or in people’s homes. This was followed by a move to Moorabbin TAFE (now Holmesglen). Another change came when Moorabbin TAFE wanted their rooms back and after some temporary venues, Glen Eira council offered us our current location. Along with these changes in venue came name changes, from Monash U3A to Bayside Central, then Moorleigh and finally, in 2022, to U3A Bentleigh.

Right from the beginning enrolment numbers quickly reached 250 then 400. By 2000 we were bulging at the seams with close to 1,000 members and more accommodation was desperately needed. What to do? With around 50% of our members living in the Bayside municipality, support was sought from that council to lease more rooms, and in 2012 U3A Bayside established a separate new campus. Even back in 2000 it was noted that, for U3A Bentleigh to be financially viable, we needed 500-700 members. We are getting there post-COVID!

Patricia recalls the early days as being very social with frequent lunches and dinners, day trips and get-away breaks; all still happening almost forty years later.

The first computer edition of the newsletter was produced in September 1988 with the comment “Like a baby we are experiencing teething problems and need comforting!” No email back then, so post was a laborious and expensive exercise.

Thank you so much Patricia for the chat and for dropping off all the memorabilia.

Ann Watts, Publicity & Public Relations

A short video

Click here for a short video on U3A Bentleigh, outlining the range of courses and social activities we provide – all for the small joining fee of $50 per annum.

What incredible value!