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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9494

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (21:10): I rise to acknowledge the important recent achievement of an organisation in my electorate, the Fitzroy Chinese Association. The Fitzroy Chinese Association brings together residents living in Fitzroy and Melbourne to participate in the broader community. This organisation plays a vital role in supporting older members of our Cantonese and Mandarin speaking community. The average age of members of this association is 77 years young.

For 24 years this association has provided opportunities for social engagement, learning and community connectedness by delivering a range of weekly activities every Thursday. These activities include English language classes, choir singing, swimming, lawn bowls, seminars on health and welfare, walking groups, tai chi and social outings. During the four major festivals in the Chinese calendar, the organisation also holds formal events such as forums, plays and banquets. The key festivals are Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, Duan Wu Jie—Chinese Dumpling Day—and International Mothers Day. Throughout its active history the Fitzroy Chinese Association has gained recognition and support from the Victorian Multicultural Commission and the City of Yarra. It has been my pleasure to be present at many of their events.

Their most recent achievement has been the establishment of a Chinese University of the Third Age. U3As are self-funded, voluntary organisations that provide to people over the age of 50 who are retired or not employed on a full-time basis the opportunity to participate in education courses on a range of topics. All of the teachers are volunteers and also students of the U3A themselves. There are no academic prerequisites, examinations, grades or degrees awarded for undertaking their courses. Rather, their ethos is underpinned by a passion and commitment to lifelong learning regardless of age. U3As enable older members of our community to remain socially active and intellectually stimulated as a way of promoting their overall wellbeing and quality of life. Unfortunately, up until now there has never been a Chinese speaking U3A in Melbourne, which has meant that non-English-speaking citizens have not been able to participate in this enriching experience.

The endeavour for developing a Chinese U3A was led by community members. I would like to acknowledge the work of Limm Mon Louey, Chap B Chow and Xiao Yue Wang, the principal of the newly established U3A. I would, furthermore, like to acknowledge the contribution of Sussan Chow—a resident of Fitzroy and a very active member of her community for over 15 years. In a letter to my office Sussan Chow articulated very beautifully the vision in seeking to establish the U3A Chinese in Yarra. She wrote:

The purpose of a U3A is very clear to us: to cultivate an optimistic spirit, based on the characteristic of us elderly, to help us to learn and to enjoy life.

It was my pleasure to be invited to attend the launch of U3A Chinese in Yarra. I attended this event on 6 August at the Fitzroy Town Hall. I was accompanied by Kathleen Maltzahn, who is the Greens candidate for Richmond, and by Amanda Stone, who is the Yarra Greens councillor representing Langridge ward and chair of Yarra's Active Ageing Advisory Committee. I acknowledge the valuable contribution made by the City of Yarra in supporting the establishment of this important community organisation and extend my sincerest thanks on behalf of the constituents who are able to benefit from this institution in so many ways.

U3A Chinese in Yarra is the 104th member of the Victorian U3A Network. Importantly, it will now service many of the people who live in public housing in the electorate of Melbourne. There are now three U3As in my electorate, including U3A Yarra City, U3A Chinese in Yarra and U3A Melbourne City. Each plays a vital role in enriching the lives of older members of our community. They provide opportunities for keeping people physically and mentally healthy and connecting them to social networks. Community connection is a key determinant for positive health and wellbeing no matter what age and stage of life you are at. U3As value the skills and knowledge that older people contribute to our society.

I am incredibly proud to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the wonderful work the U3As do in promoting healthy communities within broader Australian society generally as well as within my electorate of Melbourne. I would like to thank the U3As for their unwavering energy and perseverance in creating new and innovative opportunities for members of our diverse Melbourne community to actively participate in a meaningful and accessible way regardless of ability, formal education level or age.