University of the Third Age is a world-wide movement. It began in France in 1972 when legislation was passed that required universities to provide more community education. The first U3A was open to anyone over retirement age; no qualifications or examinations were required, and fees were kept to a minimum. The idea spread rapidly throughout France and Europe, and then across the Atlantic to Quebec and California. In Great Britain, the movement evolved toward self-direction and local autonomy; this is the model followed in Australia.

The term 'university' is used in the original sense of the word -  a community of people devoted to learning. The 'third age' refers to the time after the first age of childhood and the second age of employment and parental responsibility - thus the 'third age' is often called 'the age of active retirement'. 

Such a definition does not specifically define the aims of the organisation. No educational qualifications are required or given. Those who teach and those who learn are both members of their U3A. Generally the members are retirees of a senior age - and that's about it. But there is no exclusivity, and of you wish to be a member and can contribute by participating by way of learning or teaching, then you are most welcome. Most activities are held during the day which may preclude some employed persons to participate. 

University of the Third Age of Yarram was inaugurated in July 2014. The Rotary Club of Yarram hosted a meeting with guests from the U3A of Traralgon where Rotarians and the public guests learnt of the objectives of U3A and how it operates. A public interest meeting was later called and held at the Yarram Community Learning Centre and a steering committee formed. Much initial procedural and constitutional work was done by acting secretary/treasurer Colin Bermingham who was familiar with U3A as an existing member of another chapter. The initial drive was also auspiced by Cynthia Lang and Jacqui Lee with able assistance from an interim committee. 

On 9 Februart 2015, the first constitutional Annual General Meeting was held, and an inaugural executive elected, with Cynthia Lang as President, Peter Stone Vice- President, Jacqui Lee Secrtary and Jean Robinson Treasurer. 

U3A of Yarram is a volunteer-run learning co-operative. It relies upon the resource of skills and experience of our members and others in the community to be volunteer tutors or course leaders, or to assist in administration, program planning and publicity. Members may be leaders in some classes and learners in others. This freely given time and effort enables us to keep our running costs and membership fees low.


At a recent meeting there was some confusion as to what were our obligations in so far as there are government regulations as to how a “non-profit organisation” conducts itself. There was concern amongst some members that specific regular reporting to the government was required, and the Department of Justice was named as a regulatory body of relevance to us. 

By surfing the net and speaking with people of some knowledge and authority, the following has been established  with respect to the University of the Third Age of Yarram.

 * The U3A of Yarram is an incorporated NPO - non-profit organisation - recognised as such specifically by the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Consumer Affairs. It is the latter that has a regulatory role in our operation, and the taxation office a role in regulating any profit tax, payroll tax and GST tax. The Department of Justice appears not to have a specific regulatory role with regard to NPOs.

* We are what is known as a Tier One NPO by virtue that we have a revenue of less than $250,000. That means that we do not collect more than $250,000 as income irrespective of expense. There are two other Tiers relevant to much larger NPOs by way of finance, and location. All local community and sporting organisations would fit this category. Location (of operations) is important: we are Australian and operate solely in Australia.

* NPOs are categorised by their objectives and operations. We are a Community Service Organisation. It is arguable that we are an Educational Organisation. Although U3A aims to educate, it is not, and does not operate as a school or university. It’s prime concern is community welfare, through education (mental health) and general activity (physical health).  

* U3A of Yarram is a Self Assessed Organisation. We have determined our role. No other body has made a specific determination on what we do, our aims and objectives. We have not been created, nor under administrative control, of any other body. We have an obligation toward U3A Network insofar as we implement their general aims and objectives, receive guidance, assistance and advice if required, grants, and benefit from their universal acceptance. But we are autonomous and cannot depend on U3A Network to achieve our aims nor can we abdicate  nor abrogate our responsibility as an independant organisation.  

* We are income tax exempt, by virtue of several factors - primarily that we, as an organisation and we as individuals, do not make a profit out of our objectives; we do not conduct a commercial trade in services or goods; we are not a charity; and we are located in Australia.  

* Being located in Australia is important. There is the ‘Three Tests’ applied to this by Consumer Affairs. We pass.

* To gain the status of a NPO, with tax and reporting exemptions, and a Tier 1 rating, we must conduct ourselves within the general and specific rules readily acceptable as best practice for an organisation consisting of a management committee and members who have a common objective commensurate with its classification, ie a ‘community service’ organisation. This means that we conduct ourselves in a responsible manner, with the guidance of a self-created constitution, and general procedures for the effective and fair conduct of meetings, administration, activities, record keeping, and responsible financial control. A read of the Consumer Affairs website gives a fairly clear impression of what we must do, and what we should do - ie, we need to satisfy the 'good governance' requirements of keeping records and managing the organisation.  

* In complying with the Tier One status that we enjoy, we do not need to lodge an Activity Statement with the Taxation office as we have no PAYG, FBT, or GST obligations. 

* We not need to obtain an annual professional audit of our financial records, unless, of course, the majority of members require it to be so, or the constitution demands it. (Our constitution does not demand it.)

* We do need to complete two very specific forms determined (formats supplied) by the Consumer Affairs Department: 
 (i) Submission of Financial Statements to Annual General Meeting.
 (ii) (Consumer Affairs) Schedule 1, Regulation 15, Form 1.
The Submission form requires anyone ‘being a member of the committee’ to state when where and where the (annual) financial statement has been presented to its members. The Schedule 1 form requires two members (not necessarily committee members) to sign the form saying that they are satisfied, by virtue of examining relevant documents, that the (annual) financial record (as presented) is a ‘true and fair’ represented of the performance of the organisation.

* These forms need not be sent to Consumer Affairs (nor the Taxation office). They are however required to be kept for seven years, along with the relevant financial records. It is presumed that these are ‘good practice’ measures to ensure that the members know what is going on, and would only be referred to by a government authority if the organisation found itself in some form of legal trouble or dispute in the future. 

* The Taxation Office requests that an NPO  ‘comply with any requests made by the ATO’. That goes without saying, and would equally apply to Consumer Affairs. 

* There appears to be no directive from any regulatory body that defines the right of any member to ‘inspect the books’. Of course a directive by the majority of members at a general or annual meeting to do so would need to be considered, as would a directive in the constitution. It is a non-minuted assumption that U3A of Yarram members are permitted to inspect the financial records at any convenient time.