Stories from some of our U3As
Here’s some background information from some of our U3As in Queensland, as to their formation, growth and plans for the future. These stories may give other U3As heart that a bright future for U3A is achievable and consequence of hard work and planning for the future.
Bribie Island U3A Inc
Bribie Island U3A Inc was formed after a public meeting in 1992. It operated in the early years fromtutors’ homes, a room at the Neighbourhood Centre and Bribie Library. Incorporated in 1998, U3Amoved most classes into its first dedicated space at Montaut House, 21 South Esplanade in 2002. Asdemonstrated by the accompanying graph, growth has occurred since inception, but acquiring a ‘home’was largely responsible for an increased rate. It is certainly a key feature highly valued by the members: demonstrated by a survey of members when the social aspects of belonging to U3A were nearly as highly valued as the acquisition of new knowledge and skills.
In 2005 Caboolture Shire Council provided U3A with a refurbished section of the Bribie Island Recreation Hall on First Avenue: a Reception area, a computer lab., 2 classrooms that could be joined or divided dependent on group size, a shared meeting room with the Vietnam Vets., a small storage area and a unisex toilet: for 400 members. Furniture and equipment was obtained through successful applications to Volunteer Grants system (Federal Gov.) and Community Benefit Grants Fund (Queensland Government). 2004 – 2005. U3A receives no recurrent government funding.
With a large proportion of the older age group in the main areas served by B.I. U3A, based on 2006 figures from Moreton Bay Regional Council, 54% of the population is aged 50 and older: by contrast the average over 60 years for Moreton Bay region is 17.2 peer cent. – a continued growing demand for such services as U3A provides is anticipated.
From 2009 to 2014 there were many discussions with stakeholders (including receptionist, tutors and general members). Consultation was ongoing during that period with MBRC, especially the Facilities Department and Division 1 councilor, Gary Parsons. In 2014 the MBRC started an extension to the existing U3A and Vietnam Vets area of the Recreation Hall.
The extension was funded by MBRC and with a major contribution from Bribie U3A. Equipment and furniture were funded by a grant from the Gambling Community Benefit Fund. The building will continue to be Council owned and leased by Bribie U3A, with a 10 year lease. With the extension, U3A now (2019) has 8 classrooms, an enlarged coffee area, administration and storage areas and an additional toilet.
At the end of 2018 the membership stood at 1883 and predictions are it will continue to increase during 2019 and beyond. This continued surge in numbers has meant that additional locations are being rented in the area. A major step has been the development of a campus at Beachmere which will become an independent U3A (similar to the earlier development in Caboolture) to provide alternative U3A options for the region.
Although Bribie rents additional locations the relative cost is extremely low compared with the era before we occupied our current premises. For example in 1996 rental costs as a percentage of income was as high as 37 per cent, whereas by 2012 this had fallen to 9% and currently stands at 8%. This is a huge benefit to us and reflects the continued support we receive from the MBRC who charge us a peppercorn rent for our facilities.
Ann Brooks, Vice President
Greg Sibthorpe, President
The following is a brief summary of the unique process that U3A Brisbane used to purchase its own permanent inner city premises. The idea was initiated by U3A Brisbane past-president Ray Bricknell, whose pre-U3A vocation was in property development as a professional Project Manager. For more detailed advice on the process used to harness member resources and goodwill for similar capital intensive projects, please contact U3A Brisbane (07) 3236 3055 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Background: Expensive, highly disruptive U3A premises relocation had taken place four timespreviously in Brisbane U3A’s 25 year history. These enforced moves were due to commercial imperatives like exorbitant rent increases, building refurbishments/demolition, lease expiration and premises re-designation. The final forced move was out of the CBD and away from convenient public transport, which inconvenienced many members.
Financing by Brisbane U3A members of its own inner city premises:
Consultation with members about U3A Brisbane’s future took place. A decision was taken bymembers to relocate to CBD strata-titled office property with option to purchase within 12 months for approximately $900,000 (plus purchase costs). Many legal hurdles had to be overcome, and some very innovative solutions were found.
Members supported financing of the entire purchase via a debenture issue with a term of 10 years.(That is, members “financed the purchase of their U3A premises” by becoming 10 year note holders, with a favourable annual interest return each year, with capital to be returned to the note holders after not more than 10 years.)
The issue was oversubscribed by members within three weeks of opening.
U3A Brisbane is required to pay all monthly costs of the debt from its income (mainly class fees) for 10 years. Noteholders are secured by a charge over all the assets of U3A Brisbane, not just the property.
As with all U3A clubs it was a major issue when U3A Dalby was established to find premises for our use. The Dalby Town Council at the time gave us a room to use which was appreciated but we soon outgrew a single room.
Soon after space became available at the old convent and we applied and was granted enough room to continue and grow but it soon became evident that these premises would be too small too quickly.
The Senior Citizens Hall was built with federal government money in Dalby and was a great venue for the town as there were very few places for hire that could be used for public functions. The Senior Citizens Association made good use of the hall. When the Senior Citizens club folded in the town, the hall was given over to the council to manage and U3A members were quick to take advantage of this situation. We were very fortunate that the mayor was one of our greatest supporters.
U3A Dalby now has complete use of this hall. It consists of a main hall that has a polished floor suitable for dancing and is used by our Indoor Bowls and Table Tennis classes with ease. We use this part of the building for our General meetings and Melbourne Cup parties and fund raising events. It has a stage and store room attached.
There is a smaller room that seats approximately 50 people and is also used for classes and smaller meetings. We also have a room that is used for scrabble and mahjong classes and the computer room. We have a permanent office set up and to top it off we have a fully set out kitchen with stove and microwave and have just had the cold room removed as it needed too many repairs and was not getting any use. There is also a smaller servery and a bar off the main hall. Toilets and shower and air conditioning complete this fabulous building.
Even though we have complete use of this building for our daily classes the council still require it to be available for hire to the general public. We have a 3 year lease with an option of extending the time from the council and that requires us to manage the hall. This requires us to take bookings for the hall. We do not handle the payment of fees, that is done by council. We make sure the hall is opened for these bookings, inspect the hall after use and generally make sure all is well. This is the responsibility of the Management Committee. The council pay the electricity and general maintenance and arrange weekly cleaners.
Over the years we have applied for grants and installed air conditioning in the smaller rooms. In 2017 wedecided our home needed renovations so with council’s blessing we applied to the Gambling Fund for a grant to paint the inside of the hall. We were successful and so applied for another grant to replace curtains with blinds throughout the hall. Council were impressed with our efforts and redid the kitchen and repolished the floor in the main hall. We now have a completely refurbished home.
I would suggest to all U3A’s to scout their local area for council owned premises or halls and take theinitiative and approach your council to come to the same arrangement as Dalby.
The history of how U3A Noosa acquired the premises at 64 Poinciana Ave, Tewantin. In 2009 a member of U3A Noosa offered to purchase a building for U3A Noosa if we wanted it. The then president accepted the offer. The available property was at 64 Poinciana Ave, Tewantin; it was fitted out with input from the U3A Noosa Committee. Most of the important decisions were taken over the Christmas break 2009 and in May 2010 we moved into our own premises. All was done without any costs to U3A Noosa. The Bendigo Bank donated money for a new computer room. TAFE donated furniture and the removal trucks and we received a grant from Jupiter Casino to complete all that was needed to get started.
We started by paying a peppercorn rent while the paperwork was to be completed for the handover. Many meetings later we were advised that there were legal issues that would stop this from being possible.
U3A Noosa would have to be listed as ‘Gift Recipient’. To achieve that, U3A would have to be aregistered charity. The U3A committee went through the process of becoming a Queensland registered charity but it was not possible to become a Federal Registered Charity which was necessary. The then U3A committee and the donor involved accountants and lawyers but there was no resolution to the problem of achieving a Federal Registered Charity status.
For the donor to gift the premises to U3A she would have had to pay a very high percentage of tax and would not create a tax deduction for her. The money requested by the tax department made it impossible for her to gift the premises to U3A.
If any other U3A wishes to acquire their own premises in this way, the U3A Network would have to negotiate with Canberra to gain the necessary charity status so U3As can become Gift Recipients.
The donor then approached the University of the Sunshine Coast, who have ‘Gift Recipient’ status andafter long and very thorough negotiations with the U3A committee, representatives from the University, accountants and lawyers, a contract favourable to U3A Noosa was signed under a lease arrangement.
Note: the donor also gave extra money to the University for the maintenance of the building for the next 15 years. The University has been very generous and efficient in maintaining the building and has made changes where needed to comply with health and safety regulations. U3A Noosa currently has a 5-year lease with an option to renew for a further 5 years.
U3A Noosa has been very lucky throughout this process and the outcome has been very good. Although the initial intentions of the donor were different U3A Noosa has benefitted greatly from this arrangement.
U3A North Gold Coast Inc.
U3A North Gold Coast first began providing educational and lifestyle activities to its members in 1991. Today, it is well established as a member-based community organisation situated in the North Gold Coast region of South East Queensland, with its central headquarters at the Gold Coast City Council’sLabrador Community Centre [The Hub].
It is at The Hub that we provide an extensive programme of educational and lifestyle activities for our active community members. The Hub in many respects is considered as a unique facility for the services that we provide, being a modern, well presented building in an environment that is supported by public transport and surrounded by other community groups, parkland and public tennis courts. There is considerable off-street shared parking available in and around the building complex, together with street parking, if required.
The Hub has certainly not been central to U3A North Gold Coast’s operations since it first commenced back in 1991. Quite the contrary – we have experienced what most community-based organisations go through when identifying suitable premises to operate from and when you believe you have the right formula, the goal posts are invariably changed, bringing you back to the drawing board yet again. We have suffered this fate many times since 1991.
We have operated our classrooms out of people’s homes and garages; occupied space in smallcommunity halls; shared space with other community groups; taken up residence in a retirement village and so the list goes on. Consideration was seriously given many years ago to acquiring a purpose-built building exclusive to our requirements – this did not eventuate for several reasons all of which were primarily of a commercial and economic nature.
Then around 2010 we were offered rooms at the Labrador Community Centre, which the committee at that time accepted; there began a comfortable relationship with our primary landlord, the Gold Coast City Council. But all of that was to cease some two years later, when Council made the decision to modernise The Hub and increase its footprint. This decision meant that U3A was once again looking for temporary premises which it was able to secure.
At the completion of The Hub’s redevelopment in 2014, we accepted a 2-year lease agreement as anchor tenant in the newly refurbished Hub. That lease was re-negotiated during 2017 and we accepted a 5-year lease arrangement, which expires in 2022.
Today, The Hub provides us with sufficient space to accommodate all of our class and lifestyle activities except our choir group – which is housed in modern premises at the Paradise Point Community Centre.
Our lease with the Gold Coast City Council provides us with three secured air-conditioned permanent rooms; an office; a meeting room and a computer-based room capable of providing computer training for 20 members. The Hub also has four additional air-conditioned independent rooms, each capable of accommodating between 20 and 38 members; there is dedicated art space and large lifestyle area suitable of accommodating up to 35 members wishing to participate in lifestyle activities. The additional space is made available to us on a firm agreed booking basis, secured 12 months in advance of use. In terms of total space usage, we have lease arrangements for approximately 70% of The Hub space, 5 working days a week.
The Hub is a vibrant and modern centre, offering an extremely comfortable and pleasant environment for members to participate in class and course activities at the one location.
U3A Southern Gold Coast
U3A Twin Towns Inc (now U3A Southern Gold Coast) was incorporated in 1991. The new group was formed under the auspices of U3A Gold Coast and was initially headquartered in the Senior Citizens Centre in Coolangatta before being offered accommodation in the Showcase Shopping Centre Building.
The accommodation in the Showcase Building was subject to a monthly tenancy and in June 2008 we were informed that the tenancy was to be withdrawn. For approximately a year, we rented premises in a shopping arcade in Coolangatta which housed the office and one classroom space. Outside rental accommodation was sought for classes that could not be accommodated within that space.
In 2009, the Gold Coast City Council offered a 15 year lease on a transportable building, which had previously been the administration office for the construction of the water desalination plant in Tugun. The local councilor worked assiduously on our behalf to secure the lease on the building.
Current accommodation comprises the headquarters at Tugun and rented premises spread throughout the district. In all, classes are held at seven venues across three suburbs.
The basic accommodation within the Boyd Street premises remains unchanged from the original. It comprises an office/reception area, a large open space with a small kitchen at one end and four small rooms, three of which are used as learning spaces and one as storage. In recent times the verandah at the front of the building has been weatherproofed through installation of clear Perspex sliding panels. The verandah is used as a social gathering space and also by small groups such as card players. At the rear of the building and separated from it there is a toilet block and a shed.
Major improvements, in addition to the weatherproofing of the verandah, have included the replanting of the garden and the installation of new air conditioners throughout the building. The planting of the garden was undertaken with grant money awarded by the Bendigo Bank. The grant funding covered the cost of erection of a raised vegetable garden bed and the purchase of productive and ornamental plants. The aesthetics of the building have also been improved through painting of the vermin boards and handrails to match the colour of the blue dado height colourbond construction of the building.
The building is held on a 15 year lease at a peppercorn rental (currently around $400 per year). U3A Twin Towns is responsible for all outgoings (rates, electricity and water) and maintenance. Council donates approximately $2,000 per year towards the cost of rates.
The lease is due to expire in June 2024. A condition of the lease is that negotiations for a new lease must begin in 2023. As part of the negotiation U3A Twin Towns will be required to cover the cost of a site and buildings survey, expected to be around $3,000. If negotiations are successful and the building survey results are satisfactory, a new lease will be offered for a maximum period of 5 years.
The club is accumulating an accommodation fund to cover the eventual need to relocate from Boyd St. Reasons for relocation could be that the building is not considered suitable for re-leasing beyond 2024 and/or that Boyd Street becomes a four lane road, as gazetted.
The club is also accumulating a maintenance fund to cover any major maintenance requirements for the future. Funds are set aside in accord with a maintenance schedule devised by the committee.