U3A Box Hill's 25th Anniversary Celebrations

From Toulouse France to Box Hill the U3A has come a long way.

Acquiring the Strabane Hall, and the selfless work of volunteers are the two major strands of the Box Hill U3A story.

The early pioneers, lead by Rev. Tom Timpson, Gwendda Mckay and Elsie Smelt, were of course all volunteers. In 1991 they managed to convince the then Box Hill Council, to support them to form a Box Hill branch of the University of the Third Age. Over 100 seniors attended the meeting set up to gauge interest in the formation of a local branch of this worldwide movement. From this meeting sixteen people volunteered to be involved in a steering committee. (The present committee would be happy with such interest!).

Armed with a grant of $500 and money from their own pockets, this group created the Box Hill U3a. Using one of their homes as an office and a variety of surrounding venues for classes, the Box Hill U3A was born. The most pressing task was to find a site for the campus. Initially St Theodore's Anglican Hall in Broughton Rd Surrey Hills was used. But this venue provided only a temporary home and the search for a more suitable venue started. A number of sites were investigated but all these venues proved unsuitable with insufficient parking, restricted hours of access, or the lack of an office area cited as drawbacks.

Then fortune smiled on the pioneers. In May of 1992 the newly formed Committee of Management was advised that the Council was looking for groups interested in using the Strabane Chapel, the old St Joseph's, a stylish Art deco former Catholic Church. The committee hurriedly wrote a submission. This site provided parking and had space for an office and two classrooms. Council, keen to encourage groups that supported its senior citizens, let them and a couple of other organisations, have it rent-free. Notwithstanding the fact that the office area had reputedly, in St Joseph's times, been the confessional space, this has proven to be a suitable home!

Bruce Wadeson was the first in a long line of hard working and visionary presidents that has continued through to 2012. Committees of tireless workers have supported all these presidents. It is these volunteers, who from its inception, have enabled the U3A to operate.

The story of the first decade is one of establishing a home campus and gathering basic teaching equipment to support the volunteer tutors.

During the second decade the committee, among other matters, was involved with finding a suitable home for the computer classes that have now finally been accommodated in the Town Hall Hub. Strabane Hall was renovated so that it would better suit the member's needs. In particular the search for a kitchen and attempts to soundproof the front room doors and thus enable less main-hall-class interruptions.

In 2010 we returned to using one of the venues in which the inaugural classes had run, then the Box Hill Community Arts Centre, now the YorallaSteppinOut centre.

The lists of classes available tell the story of the vibrant learning environment that has been created here. The dedication of hundreds of volunteers down through the years has enabled and sustained this mileau.

May we continue for the next twenty-five years to enjoy ourselves as part of this exciting learning community.

Thankyou to all who give and all who have given their time, who created and sustain this learning community, and ensure that this campus operates successfully.

They have been, are, and will continue to be, the lifeblood of this organisation.

Beth Exton cutting cake On the last Friday in March (2017), ninety or so members of U3A Box Hill, including a number of foundation members, Lynn Akeroyd, Beth Exton and Helen Gilligan as well as all living past presidents, celebrated U3A Box Hillís twenty-five years of serving Box Hill seniors. The 2017 AGM was followed by a celebratory luncheon at the Box Hill RSL. There was much praise for the Hillsmen Singers, led by member Roy Olliff, and for the general organisation of the day. Hillsmen
Together with the COM, I would especially like to thank my team, Anna Strahan, Maria Quaresima, Lee Wallin, Jo Dawson and Prabhati Milton who made the event happen. Behind the scenes Helen Elliott and Chris Marks worked to ensure payments went through.

Life Member awards
On the day, long-serving COM members Helen Elliott and Susan Webster were made Life Members. Out-going president, Bruce Bourke was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation and a thank you card signed by all present as a memento. Elsie Mutton
Outgoing president of Network Victoria and Nunawading course co-ordinator, Elsie Mutton proved an appropriate and informative speaker. In her own life, she has been the embodiment of all that makes U3A work so well, the strong community-oriented volunteer ethic combined with a lifetime love of learning and caring for others.

All attending were given a copy of the Commemorative History, U3A Box Hill Bookmark and a car sticker. A thank you is recorded to Susan Webster and her team for her organisation of a special twenty-fifth Working Bee involving the creation of an indigenous planting to beautify the Strabane Hall surrounds.


Our current & past Presidents

Colin Mayfield, Greg McGregor, Susan Webster, Valerie Bourke (current), Bruce Bourke, Alister Macleod, Max McCready at the 25th Anniversary celebration.