The seeds of "lifelong learning for older people" were sown at L'Universite du Troisieme, and founded in Toulouse, France in 1972. Universities began to provide educational opportunities for older adults.
By 1981 it was transported to Britain by the late Dr Peter Laslett (Cambridge University) who saw a need for community-based groups rather than those affiliated with a university. Around the world U3As now have millions of members.
U3A itself used the word in its ancient context meaning "a community of scholars".
In Australia U3A had its beginnings in Melbourne in 1985 when Dr Jack McDonnell offered the first program. Run by a Management Committee elected by members each U3A is a voluntary non profit association offering people fifty years and over low cost educational opportunities.
Most U3As offer a program of weekly classes arranged on a term or semester basis. A wide range of subjects is offered, depending on the interests of members and the availability of presenters/leaders/tutors. Founded in 1998, Mudgee District U3A is part of a network of kindred associations across NSW and the ACT.
How did Mudgee District U3A begin?
Louise Wilson and Marcia Daniel had the dream of starting a U3A here in Mudgee early in 1998. They visited the U3A in Bathurst, and also made contact with organisations in Dubbo and Orange. Here they were encouraged to seek expressions of interest within our own district. The then Mayor, Denis Yeo, was enthusiastic about the project & a Public Meeting was held at The Stables, Mudgee on 2nd May,1998. The idea was supported by the large number who attended. Ian Chapman was elected inaugural President, Louise Wilson and Marcia Daniel, Vice Presidents, Graham Draper, Secretary, and Neville Paine, Treasurer. The supporting committee consisted of John Brownley, Helen Dempsey, Margaret Gietz, Janna Goodland, John Harrison, Tricia Marks, Lee Paine and Lynette Tipping.
The first programme of eleven courses was made available in the third term of 1998. In the beginning there were about 80 members, now 235, with 38 courses presented by local volunteers. These courses offer a range of social, intellectual, practical and physical activities and are largely accessible to all our members.