The reason for U3A Benalla’s strength is the variety of groups we offer. In 2022 we offered 44 different programs, each co-ordinated by a Convenor who was passionate about their topic. My thanks goes to each of these Convenors for the time they spend organising and presenting their particular program. All the programs are valued.
We have outside programs such as Easy Walks, Bird Watching, Garden Appreciation, the Garden Team who donate their time and effort to helping with a particular member’s garden and Wine Appreciation. Then there are many programs held in our U3A room. These include Collectors, Coin Collectors, Politics and Current Affairs, Patchwork, Investment, Stock and Land, German, Play Reading, Tech Savvy Android phones, Tech Savvy Apple Pages, Family Research and others. There are also programs which use other venues such as Art Appreciation which meets in the Benalla Art Gallery, Singing for Fun and Community Singing which meet in the Hub at Cooinda, and Chat’n’Chew which meet at various restaurants.
At the March 2023 Committee meeting we learnt that we had 361 members, which is a record high membership for U3A Benalla. 62 of these members have joined U3A Benalla for the first time this year. We have several new programs this year which includes Ukes4Fun which meet every Monday in this Auditorium and strum their Ukuleles around the projector installed by Benalla Rural City Council last year. There is also the Photography course conducted by Rene Martens, Enjoying the Internet with Dawn Stephens, the Wise Guys book group with David Palmer, In the lap of the Gods with John Barry, the Jane Austen Book Club with Meg Dillon, and the Sky’s the Limit with Claire Rudolph. Each of these new courses in 2023 have started well with excellent enrolments.
Communication within U3A Benalla is very important. I would like to thank Heather Wallace, our Newsletter Editor and Bev Lee who runs our excellent website. In June 2022 U3A Network, the Victorian governing U3A organisation, ran a photo competition showing activities at various U3A’s throughout Victoria. Approximately half the photos came from our website. Well done, Bev. Your work is appreciated not only by members of U3A Benalla but also by the wider U3A community.
Next, I would like to thank the Committee of U3A Benalla. Every person on the Committee has done an excellent job during the last 12 months, and the Committee has been a great help to me in many ways. I would like to particularly thank Geraldine McCorkell our Secretary, Len Jeffers our Membership Secretary, and David Palmer of Publicity Officer. My thanks also to Deb Goodrich who is retiring from the Committee.
I would like to thank Terry Case for his outstanding contribution to U3A Benalla over many years. Terry was President from 2014 to 2017, past President from 2017 to 2021, Convenor of both Politics and Current Affairs and Australian History courses each for over 10 years, and a great supporter of U3A Benalla. For his outstanding contribution, the Committee have decided to award him Life Membership of U3A Benalla.
Looking to the future. Our numbers have increased by over 10% this year. The timetable for our U3A room took four Committee people four hours to organise. Our second room only holds 10 people, so there are only a small number of courses for which this second room can be used.
The U3A Committee think that the expansion of our footprint will become a necessity within the next two years. U3A Benalla’s preferred option would be another two rooms at the rear of the current building. We cater for retired or semi-retired people over 55 years of age. In the 2021 census, 46% of Benalla’s population were 55 years or older, compared to the Victorian average of 28%. So, the need for our organisation is here. Our current membership of 361 is a record high for U3A Benalla. The number of members in groups such as Garden Appreciation 77, Exercises for Fun 74, Wine Appreciation 66 is impressive. Groups using our U3A room such as Patchwork and Craft with 24 members are at capacity.