Return to Newsletters


Here’s some new and some not so recent news about doings at NU3A or associated with our group.

We were very pleased to be acknowledged by local media for the presentations showcasing a number of our wonderful tutors in celebration of our 30 years in Newcastle U3A. These included:  Newcastle’s Forgotten Diva, Newcastle Herald 

By partnering with the Newcastle City Council state of the art Digital Library, our taster classes were able to be enjoyed digitally as well as by the limited number of people able to attend in person (due to COVID).  See more at Showcase Launch, Newcastle City Council Newsletter

In July 2020 the NU3A Committee surveyed the 96% of members who have an email address about their intention to return to face-to-face classes in Term 3 if these could be offered safely under Government regulations. The survey was well received with 60% responding.

Members appreciated the opportunity to continue learning during the lockdown, where they had been able to attend NU3A’s courses on Zoom or via email. They also missed the social interaction that is integral to U3A activities. Those who had not been able to participate in the online courses were more likely to be keen to return to face-to-face classes or to defer enrolment altogether due to health concerns, compared with the ‘Zoomers’. 

The Committee and Program Coordination Team are conscious that online courses do not cater for all members. We are also aware that most members are defined by health authorities as being more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 if they come in contact with it.

Typical comments were:

“As we’re all sensible adults I see no reason not to return.” (Non-Zoomer)

“Part of the attraction of U3A is being in a class with likeminded people.” (Non-Zoomer)

“ I’ve really missed NU3A during the COVID… looking forward to returning when safe to do so and no one’s health is endangered.” (Non-Zoomer)

 “… appreciated the classes via Zoom but really look forward to returning in person, but realise the safest option is best.” (Zoomer)

“Class all say they prefer face to face, but not wanting to go back unless very safe. Zoom is working.” (Zoomer)

“Thanks for being proactive and enabling the continuation of courses through Zoom and online. Learning new things and pushing past the comfort zone is what U3A is all about.” (Zoomer)

View a short summary of the survey results.

It is with a great sense of pride that among the four Newcastle recipients of awards in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List we congratulate NU3A member Dr John Tierney on being awarded an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in recognition of his work on behalf of the 400,000 Australian survivors of polio. As President and National Patron of Polio Australia from 2012-2017 he placed Polio Australia on a sound financial footing and expanded its programs. Survivors of polio suffer what is called the Late Effects of Polio (LEoP) which has long term physical consequences, and which was not acknowledged for quite some time by the medical profession, assuming this disease had been eradicated. Dr Tierney, himself a survivor of polio, retired after seeing that the organisation was properly funded with government grants and paid staff. A tireless worker, Dr Tierney also received an OAM, Order of Australia Medal in 2012 for services to the Parliament, education and the community. We now hope that in his retirement we may look forward to him being an award-winning author.

Newcastle U3A Writers’ anthology ‘The Tale Makers’ was launched by Sharon Claydon, M.P. Federal Member for Newcastle on Sunday 25th November with Scott Bevan, author, journalist and playwright as special guest speaker.

Over a hundred guests were welcomed by Newcastle U3A’s President Julie Newing and Secretary Jenny Williams, Mark Lynch, M.C. and Elizabeth Elliott, leader of the Writing Group, to what was the culmination of an amazing year for the Newcastle U3A Writers.

Special guests attending were Sonia Hornery, N.S.W Member for Wallsend, Rosemarie Milsom, Director Newcastle Writers Festival, Laurene Mulcahy, Regional Representative for the Central Coast and Hunter U3As and Christine Gregory, Port Stephens Writer.

Sharon Claydon, M.P., Federal Member for Newcastle launching The Tale Makers with MC Mark Lynch

The event was a celebration of the warmth, trust and friendship that had, throughout the year, allowed the authors to find their own voice and share their stories without fear or favour in an environment that was safe, supportive and non-critical.
In his review of the anthology, Scott Bevan wrote: “Through their words, the Newcastle U3A Writers are more than the Tale Makers. They are life embracers. The stories of these 16 writers show that life is not just stranger than fiction; it is funnier and more tragic, it is unpredictable yet reassuring, it is harrowing and far more rewarding. From the measure of their years, from the breadth of their experiences and knowledge, and from the depths of their souls, the creators of The Tale Makers have woven stories that allow us to feel how beautiful life is.”

Scott Bevan with Bill Williamson

In her foreword to the anthology Elizabeth Elliott, speaking of the authors said: “Their wealth of life experiences in their very diverse fields was the source of stories that have made us apoplectic with laughter, angry at the cruelty and injustices of our world, cry at the tragedies life sometimes brings and marvel at the blessings of life – both mundane and magical.” And isn’t that the essence of any writer or writing group – creating a special kind of magic that can touch the heart in so many different ways. Contributed: Elizabeth Elliott, Newcastle U3A

Here’s a novel NU3A program, no room hire and so on, our very own On The Buses.  Reported by Alan West, “organised by Leonie Sullivan, we had a very pleasant day travelling on three buses (13-29-14) starting from Customs House and with a very enjoyable meal and pleasant chat at the Swansea Hotel. The photo was taken by a friendly and attentive young member of staff who took great delight in doing so.

NU3A Travellers at The Swansea Hotel

The lunch was all the more memorable for the fact that Margaret Covi and I each received a Tooheys’ “scratchie” with our beer and we both won a Knights Jersey. Sorry, I missed the opportunity for a photo of us modelling the Jerseys.”

Many from our U3A will remember Reg Varney and the London Weekend Television program. Well, here’s a retro journey On the Buses with Reg Varney from YouTube.

Newcastle U3A has had the benefit of offering a Ukulele course for beginners this year through the generosity of gifted teacher Susan Coggan. The course was greeted with such enthusiasm in Semester 1 that Susan suggested a ‘Boot Camp’ in the long mid-year break to allow others to be included, and this evolved into the first-ever multi-branch U3A course in the Central Coast & Hunter Region.

The Ukulele Boot Camp of two intensive halfdays was offered to current members of all 12 independent branches within the Region with no additional course fee. With the assistance of Regional Coordinator, Laurene Mulcahy, invitations and course information were sent to the other 11 branches for distribution to their members, and expressions of interest were relayed to Newcastle U3A.

Southlakes U3A Webmaster, Elena Scifleet, designed a Multi-Branch Enrolment Form that was used to ensure information could be provided to all participating branches in a common format. Newcastle U3A volunteer office staff coordinated enrolments, venue and morning tea arrangements, and printed course notes and music, supplied by Susan, to give to participants.

The first multi-branch course and Boot Camp for ukulele was a great success as evidenced in the photos at the end of the second day.

Two of our more experienced Uke group members (Helene and Danny) generously volunteered their services to help Susan with 19 complete beginners, and five of the graduates have gone on to join the regular Newcastle U3A class in Semester 2. We are hopeful that the success of this venture will pave the way for more multi-branch offerings – and of course more ukulele aficionados!

Boot camp graduates from various U3A branches

The above was submitted by NU3A’s Jenny Williams for publication in Newslink, the Newsletter of the U3A Network NSW Inc.

Tuesday Afternoons with U3A ended on a high note on Tuesday 19th June with Professor Michael Hazelton, Professor of Mental Health Nursing at the University of Newcastle. His exceptional presentation ‘An Introduction to Mental Health’ was both interesting and informative, it covered many aspects of mental health including suicide which kills more people each year than road deaths.

Mental Health has become a huge problem in today’s society and although diagnoses and treatments have improved greatly over the years, there is still much more to be done.

The afternoon was made even more pleasurable by it being held in the Church upstairs (instead of ‘The Dungeon’) where the audio and visual facilities were excellent and members comfortably seated in lovely surroundings. It was a fitting end to a semester of wonderful presentations and a huge vote of thanks must go to Ron and Carol Davis for all the work they put into organising this most popular event on the Newcastle U3A calendar. Enjoy the break Ron and Carol and we all look forward to the presentations you have lined up for us in Semester 2.

Hilary Oliver has been invited to submit content the National Library of Australia Blog about opera singer Florence Austral. The research was initiated after Phil Warren proposed a session for the NU3A MUSIC APPRECIATION group’s 2018 program.  Phil invited Hilary to participate as his knowledge about opera was from his interest in the art form, while that of the actual skills of various singing types was pretty much zero. Phil started researching Austral in November 2017 and soon discovered a fascinating story of challenges, success, triumph and a debilitating illness.

Visit the National Library’s Blogs to read about how the NLA got involved in our project and to find out more about this amazing Australian soprano in Florence Austral:

Our Forgotten Diva [Part 1] and in When Tragedy Struck [Part 2].

Florence Austral as Brunnhilde, 1924

Austral in her own costume of Brünnhilde for the International Season Royal Opera House, Covent Garden 1924

Members of the NU3A writing group were treated to a right royal welcome when they visited WHO Printing on Monday, 14 May at the invitation of former owner Helen Ogle.

The morning was a great success with members shown every facet of the printing business by Jeff Dawe, Client Account Manager and Karen Irvine, Client Relations Manager who gave unstintingly of their time and knowledge. Engineers in the group particularly appreciated the technology and intricacies involved in modern day printing. Course Leader, Beth Elliott reports: “it was a very special morning and the group sincerely thanked Helen for her kindness and generosity in arranging our visit and we wished her every happiness in her forthcoming retirement.”


Members of the NU3A writing group were made most welcome at WHO Printing

Malcolm Bailey’s book of short stories, Salt of the Earth, was ‘launched’ at the Gallipoli Legion Club on Thursday evening 12 April. At the gathering were family, friends and, in fine voice, The Newcastle People’s Chorus with the book being ‘officially’ launched by Trevar Langlands, President of the Fellowship of Writers, NSW. The book had its genesis in Elizabeth Elliott’s Write Your Story course at Newcastle U3A in 2017, a group that Malcolm was encouraged to join by his sister, Janet and his partner, Vera. Malcolm was inspired to put some of his humorous and ironic recollections on paper in the collaborative environment created by Beth at U3A. Malcolm’s interest in people led to his rich memories of the characters and situations he had encountered in his work as a civil engineer at many locations in country NSW. If you wish to purchase Malcolm’s book, Janet on 0417438 416 is the person to contact. Mike Scanlon reviewed “Salt of the Earth” in The Herald on Saturday April 21, 2018.