Oceania Group – University of the Third Age (U3A)

Oceania_U3A[Photo: Dr Henry Ivarature (far left), from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), addresses the U3A Oceania Group on “Democracy and Regionalism in the Pacific”.]

by Judy Johnson, Acting Coordinator,
Oceania Group of the U3A (ACT).

The Oceania Group commenced in the mid 1990s, when a group discussing Australia’s interests in the Pacific worried that there was very little public interest in the subject. Professor Colin Groves suggested a course through the University of the Third Age (U3A), an international movement promoting lifelong learning for retirees. With initial support and continuing encouragement from Professors Matthew Spriggs, the late Hank Nelson and Brij Lal and the involvement of academics from The Australian National University and others with expertise in the region, the course is continuing in 2013. It was led by Jennifer Blaik until her recent illnesses. The Oceania Group meets at ANU’s University House Cellar Bar from 10 am – 12 noon each Friday (to 9 August 2013).

This year we are fortunate to have presentations on diverse topics from academics and specialists from other walks of life (including some members of the Group itself).  Talks include Food in the Pacific (Lyn Craven, Australian National Herbarium), Pacific Prehistory (Andrew Pawley), Kastom Exhibition (National Gallery of Australia), Women in Fiji (Madhuri Sharma), West Papua (Mike Cookson), HIV and Leprosy in Melanesia (Vicki Luker), Mapping in the Pacific (Michael Braund), Sorcery and Witchcraft in Melanesia ( Miranda Forsyth), Democracy and Regionalism in the Pacific (Henry Ivarature), Changes in the Pacific We Have Known (Geraldine Triffett), Fiji Update (Brij Lal), Timor Leste (Gorden Peake) and New Caledonia (Peter Brown).

What motivates such interest?  Many of the participants have expertise in or experience of Pacific matters, others are there due to curiosity about our neighbours; all have a real desire to learn, and some have memories of the Pacific in times gone by.

Planning is underway about the 2014 program and we hope to include more on mapping (and the Pacific map collection at The National Library of Australia) and a greater focus on the influence of the French on Pacific matters. If you would like to contribute to the U3A Oceania Group lecture series, or join the Group or have any other related questions, please contact Judy Johnson (judith.johnson4@bigpond.com).

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