President’s Address, AGM 10 May 2021

As you are well aware, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world. U3A Stonnington has made many positive responses to change. Let me remind you:

Our immediate response to the Covid-19 State of Emergency was to close our building – and then begin to offer our program remotely, mostly but not entirely by Zoom. This offered members opportunities to enjoy interesting and engaging activities, and a new form of social interaction. We offered Zoom assistance then – and continue this as necessary. Our changes in operation offered interesting things to do: diversions from isolation and the sometimes dark foreboding that Covid-19 could inspire.

U-MAS and the Website
For CovidSafe reasons we knew that we had to adapt our membership data management to an online one, with an associated Website, and we did so. In the process, we established a closer relationship with U3A Network Victoria and were assisted greatly with the introduction of Zoom, UMAS for Members and the Website.

When restrictions permitted, our first steps towards meeting in person were some walks and morning teas. Now we are seeing groups with small participant numbers returning to Valetta Street for their activities.

As you are well aware, Covid-19 thrust the need for change upon us.

Currently? U3A Stonnington is managing quite well
It is not a surprise that our current membership is just over half what it was pre-Covid. Many U3As in our region have reported similar reductions in numbers. Some of our members are now keen to return in person. However, others remain understandably cautious about returning in person. Current CovidSafe requirements mean that numbers permitted to return are small due to the small size of our building. Given our age demographic, CovidSafe practices remain important.

Necessity is the mother of the project!
Our next project – hybrid sessions – is well underway. Hybrid sessions combine meeting in person with simultaneous Zoom for people who are unable to, or choose not to, come to Valetta St. This meets a need that we have been well aware of for some years now. We are also regularly recording lectures for subsequent viewing by members.

Engagement with life is fundamentally important for physical and mental health. Interaction with other people is key to this. Enforced isolation events reinforced this understanding, and we are proud of our efforts to keep in touch with our members, and to offer them activities.

Change requires work
In this case, implementation and mastery of new systems, especially U-MAS, by many of our volunteers has been – continues to be – demanding. Change challenges members as well: some members find UMAS difficult to use – if this includes you, please contact us for assistance.

Committee of Management
To reiterate: I am very grateful for the support and guidance the Committee have provided throughout the past year.

The position of Secretary is the only one required by law for us to function. Ian Singleton has so far escaped comment, but he deserves special mention – he is a thoughtful, excellent secretary, and I am very grateful that he will continue in this role for one more year. He, along with Elspeth Ferguson, takes time off from his secretarial duties to lead well researched and thoroughly enjoyable walks, and to take us on marvellous armchair travels.

Volunteers run our organisation, and times change
As you know, Doug Thomas is retiring as Treasurer. Doug was President for three years, at a time of change for the running of Not-For-Profit organisations. He took over being Treasurer during his Presidency and has continued in this role for the past three years. He is the most meticulous Treasurer an organisation could ask for! Doug was overseer of many aspects of our move from Orrong Road to Valetta Street which finally took place in 2018 – a substantial undertaking! We have benefitted greatly from Doug’s depth of experience and wisdom, his hours of dedicated work, and his humour. I am personally very grateful for his mentorship. Doug will be greatly missed.

Our programme is the basis of U3A Stonnington
We express continued gratitude to all our Course Leaders who have mastered Zoom and other new and inventive ways to conduct their excellent Courses during the past year.

Volunteering at U3A is rewarding
If you have a skill or special interest that you would like to share with U3A Stonnington, please let us know. Participation as a volunteer does bring its rewards! It is not possible to name everyone, but I thank all our volunteers for their work.

At our AGM in 2020 we predicted that Covid-19 would be with us for the foreseeable future. I believe that this is still the case – but we have good cause for greater optimism now. We are practised with Covid-Safe behaviours. Vaccination is now available to us – dare I say an ‘unprecedented’ achievement; indeed many of us have begun our vaccinations.

Our U3A is resilient.
We are looking forward to Semester 2, and our 2021-2022 year.

Elizabeth Brown
President, U3A Stonnington 10 May 2021