The University of the Third Age or, as it is more commonly known, U3A was started by Prof. Pierre Vellas in 1973 in France at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Toulouse. The concept was imported into the United Kingdom the early 1980s, where it has grown to more than a 1000 groups and a membership exceeding 450000. The UK virtual U3A was launched in 2009, with objective of serving third agers who, because of health or isolation were unable to attend a physical U3A. The objective is still to provide friendship and learning opportunities but by virtual means. Some central and eastern European countries were adopting the U3A concept quite early in its history. In 1984 the Slovenian University of the Third Age started by two university professors. This U3A network has now expanded into a network of 40 universities. Canada also has U3As, although they are limited to a group within the province of Ontario. The USA has a similar organisation, however it is know by a different name -Lifelong Learning Institutes. U3A is now a world wide organisation with more than 3000 groups across all continents. There is an International Association, AIUTA which holds an International Conference every three years.
Australia’s first U3A began in Melbourne in 1984 and there are now over 200 U3As in Australia, with a membership estimated at close to 100000. There are U3As in metropolitan, regional and rural areas across Australia.
U3As in Australia have adopted the British model self-help model of teaching and learning but also provide the opportunity for physical activity. This is based on the belief that better health outcomes are achieved by staying active; mentally, physically and socially, in active retirement.
For more information check the factsheet What is U3A?
We started in 1988 as part of the world-wide U3A organisation for third age people (those in active retirement). Like other U3As Gawler U3A is a self-help organisation, run by volunteers, providing learning, creative and leisure opportunities, in a friendly environment for people in their active retirement years. Our program includes a range of physical, mental, and recreational activities, all run by volunteers.
We are almost totally self-funded by an annual membership fee. Assistance is provided by Gawler Council, in the form of low cost accommodation at the Gawler Sport & Community Centre, from the Local Member for Light with photocopying and from SA and Federal Governments with grants.