• University of the Third Age (U3A) – What does it mean? 

U3A is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation that aims to offer older people low-cost educational opportunities operating in a pleasant, supportive social setting. There are no formal entry requirements and no examinations. U3A is basically a self-help group built on the premise that collectively older people have the skills and knowledge to provide learning opportunities for each other.  The word “university” is used in its earliest sense – a community of scholars who work together to support each other in a learning/social experience. Most of the U3A groups in Australia are community based.

  • How and when did the U3A movement begin? 

U3A is a worldwide organisation. It began in France in 1968, when legislation was passed that required universities to offer more community education. In 1973 a highly rated gerontology course was provided by Toulouse University for local retired people, a course that was extremely successful and which led to the formation of what was to be the first U3A. This organisation was open to anyone past retirement age; no qualifications or examinations were required and fees were kept to a minimum.

The idea spread rapidly throughout France and then to Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Spain and across the Atlantic. It has also undergone change. There is little distinction between the teacher and the taught – members would, as far as possible, be teachers as well as learners. This new self-help approach is based on the knowledge that “experts” of every kind in every field retire, so there should be no need to depend on paid tutors of either the second or third ages!

  • How does U3A operate? 

Each U3A (and there are many U3A groups in each state of Australia) is an autonomous association whose members are, in the main, retired or at least semi-retired. The recommended age-requirement for membership is 50 years plus. A Management Committee democratically elected from among members oversees our group. Administration and office functions are performed by members on a voluntary basis.

Course leaders/tutors are as far as possible drawn from members, although community (non-U3A) volunteers may sometimes be willing to conduct short courses or a one-off presentation. In the spirit of sharing, there is no distinction between teacher and taught; the leader of one course may well be a student in another. Course leaders (member or non-member) do not receive payment for their services. The members themselves are the valuable resource from which to  draw knowledge and skills and are encouraged members to offer their skills for tutoring. This method continues to be highly successful.

U3A Cairns Inc. was established in 1990, classes were held in private homes and various halls around town with a skeleton committee and not many more members. We are proud and thankful for the vision of the founding members. The original constitution is dated 23 April 1990.  

Our membership is steadily growing in our very own centre and we offer well over 30 programs covering a wide range of classes, activities and some social events too. Currently there is pressure to expand the U3A centre to meet increased numbers.

The Membership is the strength of the organisation whether as participants, organisers or administrators. It only works with all engaged. Our Members share a thirst for knowledge, a desire to learn and a willingness to share freely with others.

It is necessary to be a Member of U3A Cairns Inc. in order to attend classes. Cairns U3A classes include art and craft, book clubs, bridge and other games, bush walking, cinema, cooking shows, dancing, exercises to music and singing, health related activities, seven language classes, luncheon club, memory teasers – see the monthly U3A bulletin for further details. Volunteer Tutors come from all walks of life: Professors, businessmen and women, teachers and people who wish to continue growing their knowledge for the fun of it and the satisfaction of putting something back into society.

U3A Cairns Inc operates under a formal Constitution. We have Public Liability Insurance and operate under a Work & Health Safety Policy.  Annual membership are $30 for singles, $50 for couples; $3 per class.

For more information about U3A Cairns, go to Governance on this page and/or Classes, Studies and Activities.

JCU (James Cook University) welcomes Cairns U3A members to attend most subjects for no fee. For more, go to JCU University Courses (free at U3A Cairns)

How We Do It

  • Classes & Attendances
    • It is necessary to be a Member of U3A Cairns in order to regularly attend classes.
      U3A Name Badges must be worn for all classes and activities. Visitor name badges can be collected from the office.
    • Attendance Sheets are to be signed by members and handed to the receptionist at the end of each class. An attendance sheet is a legal document required for insurance cover and must remain at U3A at all times.
    • Conveners will be asking class attendees to advise the name and phone number of their emergency contact person in case of an accident or sickness.
    • As a courtesy to other members and tutors, it is requested that mobile phones are switched off during classes. If expecting an important call, put your phone on vibrate and leave the room to take the call.
  • Attendance at Luncheons
    • Payment for luncheon must be completed at the time of bookings. Bookings can be made by ringing 0402 017 243, emailing lunchu3acairnsinc@gmail.com, online (see online booking forms) or in person at U3A reception (correct change required for payment).
    • You are encouraged to wear your name badge to support the social atmosphere and encourage new aquaintances.
  • U3A Library – Are you an avid reader? Are you aware, we have two libraries?
    • The General library is for members to take (or donate) clean books, without a borrowing system. There are plenty of books available at the moment, so check them out.
    • The Reference library (in Kitchen 2) is for borrowing only. Leave your name, membership number and book details in the orange folder. 
  • Deadlines
    • Amendments/information to be included in the bulletin and/or website must be forwarded by 20th of the month prior, VIP 100 words maximum. Please email bulletinu3acairnsinc@gmail.com and/or webmanageru3acairnsinc@gmail.com.
    • Information to be included on U3A’s website is to be forwarded to webmanageru3acairnsinc@gmail.com by the 20th of the prior month.
    • Information concerning the U3A luncheon is to be forwarded to lunchu3acairnsinc@gmail.com.
    • Changes to Class Information: Classes will be published on this website and not in the U3A bulletin. The deadline for changes to classes is the 20th of the prior month.
  • Other
    • To reduce postage costs, the bulletin will no longer be posted out. If you have an email address, the bulletin will be emailed to you. If you do not have an email address, we ask that you collect your bulletin from the office.

Postal Address
U3A Cairns
PO Box 6915

Residential Address and Locations for Classes 
129 Mulgrave Road (library, Mulgrave room, Scott room, Severin Hall) and Girl Guides Hut, 32 James Street, Manunda.

U3A Centre at 129 Mulgrave Road, Cairns is the main venue for classes and activities. The Centre is situated next to the Cairns Showground between Severin and Buchan Streets, with plenty of parking available, both front and rear where there is a large grassed parking area. The U3A building is part of the Cairns & District Youth & Recreation Association complex. A private road runs alongside our building and leads to a large parking area with many of the spaces under the shade of giant trees.

Phone 07 4051 0400

Email u3acairnsinc@gmail.com

Web https://cairnsu3ainc.u3anet.org.au/

Office Hours Monday to Thursday 9 – 4pm, Friday 9 – 12.30pm

Committee Member Contact Details – click here

Membership Fees  Single $30, Couple $50, Visitors $15 for 3 months

Bank Details Queensland Country Bank, BSB 704-640 Account No: 2206 8225 Reference: Your full name

For any questions about this website contact our Webmaster at: webmanageru3acairnsinc@gmail.com 

Please use the form below for any other feedback. Alternately, you can leave a note in our “feedback box” at our Mulgrave Road premises.


Cairns U3A will be closed as per the dates below (see time table, bulletin or go to classes menu to view individual classes/changes due to holiday closure). Note that some classes may be held during Public Holiday periods but ONLY if prior arrangements are made with the course coordinator.

During 2021 we will be closed on the following dates: 

  • Australia Day – Tuesday, 26 January
  • Good Friday – 2 April
  • Easter Monday – 5 April
  • Anzac Day Holiday – Monday, 26 Aril (substitute day as Anzac Day falls on a Sunday)
  • Labour Day – Monday, 3 May
  • Queen’s Birthday – Monday, 4 October
  • Cairns Show Holiday – Friday, 16 July
  • Christmas/New Year closure – to be advised