Way back when, Wednesdays

The stressless classroom for seniors

Albert Einstein once remarked that “Once you stop learning, you start dying” (http://www.basicknowledge101.com/subjects/educationquotes.html). There is also the proverb that you are never too old to learn. On page 10 of the edition dated Wednesday 18 February 1987, the Leader Messenger reported on the new Tea Tree Gully branch of the University of the Third Age, where retired people could participate in a variety of courses for learning and recreation and share their knowledge and experience with others.

U3A

The Tea Tree Gully branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A) was established in 1987. 31 years later it is still thriving, with members meeting at 22 Golden Grove Road, Modbury North.

We speak of the Third Age as a time of active retirement. It follows the first age of childhood and formal education and the second age of working life. The Third Age precedes the fourth age of dependence (https://www.u3a.org.au/u3a_movement). The University of the Third Age is an international non-profit organisation which advocates that we should have access to life-long learning opportunities and the pursuit of knowledge, in a supportive environment where mutual learning and teaching flourish. So what feels like the end for retirees is often the beginning (https://www.goodmorningquote.com)

The British U3A embraced the philosophy on which the medieval university was founded: A fellowship of equals who met to share and extend knowledge. The British U3A embraces the principles of self-help and self-determination. Acknowledging that older people have accumulated a lifetime of knowledge and experience, members of each branch develop and structures their own programs, based on the strength and interests of their learning community.  Group members plan and develop a syllabus for each course that the offer and those with specialist experience teach on a voluntary basis. Other members assist in the administration of U3A. Each group is autonomous and manages itself.

Logo U3A 2

University of the Third Age logo

The Australian U3A is based on the British model. In 1984 the first Australian U3A opened in Melbourne. Universities of the Third Age in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Western Australia have established intrastate networks to support the different branches in each state with a range of resources (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_the_Third_Age).

If you would like more information about the Tea Tree Gully University of the Third Age log on to the website at: http://users.tpg.com.au/u3attg/index.html

TTG University Third Age

The Tea Tree Gully branch of the University of the Third Age situated at 22 Golden Grove Road, Modbury North.

Members pay a membership fee when they enroll in their first course. They can experience the joy of learning for learning’s sake as there are no examinations or certificates to be obtained. No educational qualifications are required. Courses are designed to offer participants a range of educational, creative and leisure activities, with opportunities to socialise and enjoy yourself!

Now there is even a virtual branch of the University of the Third Age at https://www.u3aonline.org.au/  U3A Online is the world-first virtual University of the Third Age to deliver online learning via the Internet. U3A Online is especially suited to older people who may be geographically, physically or socially isolated. The website also provides links for older people to access useful information about different topics, such as news, maintaining good health and staying safe online.  You can also find your local branch of the U3A.

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Way back when, Wednesdays

Lest we forget – Anzac Day 25 April 2018

In the time of the Vietnam War, the North East Leader a Messenger Newspaper photographed handsome Private Don Goodcliffe of Tea Tree Gully while on active service, on page 3 of the edition dated 3 April 1968.

Vietnam tunnel

Australia committed a contingent of 60,000 personnel to fight alongside the South Vietnamese and American forces in Vietnam from 1962 to 1972, with the aim of suppressing the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Communism in Asia. The Viet Cong (or National Liberation Front – NLF), a common front aided by the North, engaged in guerrilla warfare against anti-communist forces. The Viet Cong fought to unify Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh’s Ho’s Lao Dong (Worker’s Party).

Men fought mainly in the army but navy and air force personnel and some civilians also served in the long conflict. Women went to Vietnam working as nurses in the military,  as civilians working with the Red Cross and as journalists.  There were also Australian Embassy female staff and entertainers.

In 1964 the Australian Government led by Robert Menzies had reintroduced conscription through a National Service Scheme. If you were a male aged 20, you had to register with the Department of Labour and National Service and your name could be randomly selected for national service by your date of birth. This was basically a scheme to increase the number of military personnel the Government could send overseas to 40,000. If you were unlucky enough to be selected, it was likely you were going to fight in Vietnam (https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/conscription/vietnam). Just about everybody would have known somebody who was conscripted, sometimes even a brother or a friend. Australians who resisted the draft were jailed.

The North East Leader makes reference to Operation Pinnaroo in the caption accompanying the photograph of Don Goodcliffe and the Vietnamese interpreter. The Long Hải Hills where Private Goodcliffe was deployed are situated near Long Hải, in the Long Điền District of the Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu Province in Vietnam.

Unfortunately, in 1967 Brigadier Stuart Graham had ordered Australian forces to plant 21000 M16 mines throughout the hills. The deployment of the mines was supposed to form a barrier to stop the Viet Cong from gaining access to and infiltrating nearby villages in the vicinity of the Australian army task force base at Nui Dat. The Australian troops failed to adequately defend this rugged territory, which was full of thick scrub. The Viet Cong seized control off the Long Hail hills. Their recruits dug a network of tunnels to store supplies and establish a military stronghold from which to plan and stage attacks. Viet Cong troops had learned to reposition the mines and use them against the enemy.

Operation Pinnarro led by Brigadier Hughes in early 1968 was terrible. It was designed to be a reconnaissance and attack mission, to destroy the Viet Cong’s military installation along Long Hai. However, the Viet Cong had anticipated the Australian attack. They did not even need to shoot the Australian soldiers. 15 Australians were killed and 33 wounded by walking in the terrain. 42 allied soldiers were also killed and 175 were wounded. And of course the mines did not just disappear. We have no statistics to tell us how many local Vietnamese people had their lives ruined by encounters with the land mines (http://vietnamswans.com/revisiting-the-long-hai-hills-43-years-later/) More Australians would die or be maimed by the time our forces withdrew from Long Hail and left Vietnam.

By 1969 many people believed that Australians should not be fighting in Vietnam with the United States and that it was a conflict that could not be won. Rallies in the streets against the War and conscription became violent and protesters were arrested. The antiwar sentiment was so strong among the Australian public that our troops who had bravely served in horrific conditions in Vietnam were reviled and they were abused upon their return to Australia. 521 Australians died as a result of the Vietnam War (496 of these were from the Australian Army) and over 3,000 were wounded.

Since Don Goodcliffe’s name is not listed on the Australian War Memorial site among the fallen, we may assume that he came home.  In 1997, the Australian Government signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction which is also known as the Ottawa Agreement.

To find out about Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, logon to these sites:

Australian War Memorial website: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/event/vietnam

https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/australia-and-vietnam-war/australia-and-vietnam-war/vietnam-war

Read one veteran’s account of Operation Pinnaroo: http://lachlanirvine.tripod.com/lifestory/id5.html

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