Published: 28 May 2015

Ms Forrest (Murchison) - Mr President, I have no doubt that all members support and are aware of the value of lifelong learning.  After all, that is what we do every day in our roles here.  I know I learn something every day, making it a very good day indeed.  It is important to promote and support lifelong learning opportunities within our electorates and throughout the state.

Recently I was delighted to be invited to launch the Wynyard U3A, that is Wynyard's University of the Third Age.  Some members already have U3A programs running in their electorates and I am sure they are well aware of the benefits and values of U3A.

For members who may not know much about U3A, it is an international organisation focused on lifelong education, socialising and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.  It is aimed at individuals who are retired and over 50.  Each U3A is a learning community, organised by and for people in townships such as Wynyard, who can best be described as being active in retirement - the third age of their lives.  Volunteers deliver lectures and run courses in a range of areas, with participants choosing to enrol in a particular area on offer if they wish.

As we grow older, it is interesting to contemplate how our lives in our more senior years can be as healthy, enjoyable, fulfilling and stimulating as possible.  This is not just about physical health and wellbeing, but also about our emotional and psychological health, and maintaining our intellect.  To do this we need to exercise our brains and keep them active, agile and motivated.  There are many ways to do this, some more accessible with online access to a range of options. Working online alone can mean you miss many of the benefits of brain exercise - benefits come from, and with, interaction with others seeking to achieve similar outcomes

Tasmania has an ageing demographic.  Our life expectancy is increasing, our population is not growing at a great rate, and our birth rates are declining.  At the same time, there is an assumption that learning and education should be undertaken early in our lives.  Clearly we should not view education in this way: older people who study will learn well beyond childhood - when opportunities are available - and will continue to contribute to our society in a variety of ways.

Wynyard U3A was launched in February this year at a function held in the Waratah and Wynyard Council Chambers. The support was overwhelming, with people who attended coming from diverse backgrounds.  In launching the program I witnessed part of its magic - it can bring together people who have diverse and interesting life experiences, and give them the opportunity to learn from each other.

One of Wynyard's true gems, Dr Mary Cahill, a retired doctor who worked as an anaesthetist and specialist in women's health, is preparing two lectures.  Dr Cahill was responsible for establishing the Sexual Assault Service on the north-west coast and continues to be a very strong advocate for women's health.  I am sure her two lectures will be well attended and informative. They are 'Women's health through men's eyes - nymphomania and other myths' and 'Sex through the centuries'.  Other volunteers will be giving lectures on regional history, drama, sustainability and music.

The Wynyard U3A is a fantastic initiative.  I sincerely commend all those who nurtured this idea from its planning through to doing the legwork, research and implementation required to get us to where we are now.  The launch of Wynyard U3A, and similar programs to be developed in Tasmania, provides an inviting, unintimidating educational environment.

I encourage members to get behind such programs to support lifelong learning. It has many benefits, not only for the brain and memory - lifelong learning impacts positively on our physical and psychological health and wellbeing. It helps older members of our community avoid the unpleasant experience of isolation, which is a reality for many older people. When we look at members of our older generation, it important we recognise that many of them did not always have the opportunity to access education, certainly not lifelong education.  U3A provides the chance for older citizens to access a range of educational opportunities.  It is wonderful these opportunities are now available through U3A locally.  It will enable many older citizens to study online and engage with those with expertise in their area of interest.

I acknowledge and thank all those involved in the establishment of U3A Wynyard. I particularly commend the interim committee members - Janet Sell, Catherine Furdon, Mervin Mitchell, Jeremy Clebberly and Rhys Campbell, all of whom helped establish Wynyard U3A.  I wish them and Wynyard U3A ongoing success as it grows and supports the wellbeing of the Wynyard community.

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