Meet some of our lecturers


Gavin began his working life as a schoolteacher, however spent the majority of his working life in academic publishing and bookselling, and 13 years as M.D. of the Sydney University Medical Society.  In retirement, he has returned to historical research and writing; applying the principles studied in a history and economic history focused degree in the 1970s.

In his youth, he sailed 12ft skiffs and VS’s out of Watsons Bay sailing club and has returned to his roots in writing an indigenous and colonial history of “Courmangara” (Watsons Bay).  He has developed a “blog” and guided tour app focused on Darling Harbour, the city, harbour and Watsons Bay.  He has also researched and written a family history which includes various family members’ experiences in immigrating to Victoria, N.S.W and Queensland on sailing ships in the mid and late 1800’s.

Gavin is a volunteer with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Wayside Chapel. He is also a volunteer guide with the Australian National Maritime Museum, and crews on the Duyfken, a replica of the 1605 Dutch ship that explored the north coast of Australia. He is also a member of U3A; Sydney and Inner West.

As well as regular overseas travel to Italy, France, Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, Belgium, the Rhine/Danube, USA and Canada, he has travelled extensively in Australia, including to Kakadu, Broome and the Dampier Peninsular, Purnululu (Bungle Bungles), Uluru & Kata Tjuta, the Daintree, Charters Towers, Great Ocean Rd and the Grampians, Kangaroo Island, the Murray and the Darling Rivers, Victorian Gold Fields, The Pinnacles,  Warrumbungles, Macquarie Marshes, Myall Creek, Hospital Creek, Brewarrina, Bourke  and Gundabooka N.P.


Gavin will be presenting a course on Colonial History and Remarkable Women for Upper North starting in April. Bookings Trish Sykes,


I joined U3A seven years ago after retiring from lecturing in Maths Education at UTS for just over 30 years.

After taking part in some fabulous U3A courses I decided that I could share my interest in puzzles and began a course in Fun Problem Solving. FUN is the most important word and the group enjoys different types of problems in a non-threatening atmosphere. We always have a word, number, space and logic problem so there is something for everyone.

Like many other courses we have been meeting on Zoom during 2021.

The puzzles are sent out 10 days earlier and we discuss the answers during the session. New members are always very welcome.

OAM, B.A, B.Mus., Dip.Mus.Comp, A.Mus.A.

I retired from my job after being replaced by a computer program!

This gave me a chance to go back to learning things again, so I joined the U3A. What a wonderful  organisation! So many topics to choose from, and so many wonderfully interesting people to meet!

I enrolled in the German class, then moved on to Latin and Classical Greek. Josie Lead – at one time the Treasurer of U3A Upper North, and a member of this language class — spoke to me about how hard it was for members of the ukulele class to learn how to read music when they reached the higher levels. She asked if I could help, so I volunteered the “How to Read and Write Music” course for those who had never been in a position to learn about all those black dots.

It has been the most enjoyable work I have ever done. This class first learns rhythm patterns and belts away on drums, triangles, sticks, castanets, gongs etc. in a percussion band. Then they move on to learning pitch, singing scales and intervals and setting poems to melodies. The highlight of their year is performing their compositions at the Ryde Eisteddfod in the Seniors’ (over-50s) section, and possibly winning a prize.

At the end of the year, they receive a “graduation” certificate stating that they can read music of various types, conduct a choir or an ensemble, transpose a melody into a different key, and write a simple melody with the correct harmonic accompaniment. Along the way, the class learns many things from each other and also has a jolly (musical) good time!


Click here to see a picture of Rose 

 I arrived in Sydney in February 1977, 44 years ago. I came alone and I came to stay. As soon as I stepped on Aussie soil I knew I was home. I came with permanent residency status and a job as a dentist. After the minimum three years of living in Australia, I applied to become a citizen. I love living in Australia.

The stork that brought me dropped me off in Malaysia and choosing Australian as my nationality is a privilege I exercise with full pride. I am Chinese and was brought up in a Muslim country, boarded at Catholic convents with Irish nuns, sat in class alongside Malay, Indian, Chinese and Eurasian children. I enjoyed and participated in their languages, cuisines and culture. I am thankful for being layered with these unique experiences.

I worked with a couple of dentists in my early years here, then stopped work for a few years to enjoy the hands-on parenting of my children. I am now a grandmother to two grandchildren. I worked at the Dental Hospital for two years and then went private with my own practice for the next 20 years.

I am now retired. Retirement is as much fun as being at work. Yes, work was fun.

I joined U3A about 10 years ago and thanks to the organisation, I have enjoyed many activities, including Yoga, Tai Chi, Walks, Talks, Dance and Ukulele. I am now a course leader for a dance class called ‘Dance Exercise for the Young at Heart’. Boy, do we have FUN! So much fun that I have asked U3A to please afford me another room to accommodate my waiting list as my current dance class is full. And I think that I might be lucky. Yes, I think I might After all, I did employ the best voice to represent us: Vicky Davies. Thank you Vicky!  

Rose has been known to write the occasional poem and her experience of buying lottery tickets for her dance group prompted her to write the following:

So off I go, to buy the tickets,
Armed with information on notes that stick it.
There’ll be lottery tickets of two kinds
And heaps of others from Jojo’s mind.
The time has to be right,
And confidence must be tight.
Three cups of tea and a biscuit or four,
To get me going past my front door.
Not today but tomorrow seems bright,
Sunday’s going with the Flow is blessedly right.
My hatchlings at home are quiet and sweet,
Cos they are expecting their biggest treat.
There’s Caroline, Denise, Vicky, Marilyn C and P,
Irene, Evelyne, Madhu, Susanna G and B,
There’s Ramah, Linda, Lorraine and Heather,
Maureen, Nadia, Lyn and Gisela,
Don’t forget Christine, Ros, Joanne and Frea,
Jean, Sue W-B, Raquel and
AND……M A R I A  !!!

Let it be known, to one and all
This is the family from Heaven did fall
All I ever wanted were dancing mates
And now they live inside my heart’s gates.
So… off I go tomorrow
And bring home $$$$$ in a barrow!!!


Garry Smith is a retired school principal; he spent the best part of forty years as a teacher, senior policy officer, teacher educator and principal with the New South Wales Department of Education. His qualifications in education following his high-school years at Northmead High School, involve undergraduate and postgraduate studies, including a Masters’ Degree.

Following his retirement in 2009 he took up an interest in family history and has been most recently the Leader, Australian History Seminars for U3A, Upper North Region.

While a member attending U3A history sessions he proved to be a reliable, last-minute stand-in for presenters who had to cancel their sessions. When approached about leading the Australian History sessions, he agreed to both present and recruit quality speakers to speak on a diverse range of topics within the Australian History framework.

His own presentations have invariably been inspired by characters from his own family history. He often meets relations he did not know about during his family history research. His current family history research efforts have focused on his own Alchin, Thompson and Smith families. He completed a thesis for the Diploma in Family Historical Studies (Dip FHS) through the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG) in 2016. The thesis, entitled ‘The View from Thompson’s Corner’ dealt with the earliest generations in Australia of the Thompson family. He had previously completed the Certificate in Genealogical Research (Cert GR) with SAG. He has recently completed a family history about his Alchin family from Gunning, Dalton, and the Hills District. He has now also had a Smith family history printed. His most recent project concerns The Great War and forebears involved.

Garry presents widely to family and Australian History groups and community clubs; he usually bases his presentations on real characters from his own family history in Australia.

Garry is a member of several family history and history societies and groups, including: The Society of Australian Genealogists, Dural & District Historical Society, The Hills District Historical Society, Gunning & District Historical Society, Hornsby Shire Historical Society, Hornsby Shire Family History Group, Ku-ring-gai Historical Society, Wagga Wagga & District Family History Society, Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society, Canberra & District Historical Society, and Crookwell & District Historical Society,

In addition to his strong interest in history, Garry has a very keen interest in Rugby Union – he is a long-time member of the Gordon Rugby Club.

Keeping busy with history research is supplemented by his advocacy work for a person with disability who requires support navigating the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Garry’s background in Special Education ensures that he can offer best advice and personal support about the NDIS.



Ian joined the Upper North region of U3A in 2000 as a course leader and, for 2 years, Course Coordinator. In this time he has given lectures at: Inner West, Eastern, Endeavour, Harbouside North, Northern Beaches and Upper North. He has also lectured at U3A seminars in Coffs Harbour and Shellharbour. Reflecting Ian’s broad interests and life experience, individual lectures and lecture series included the topics of Australian transport (especially railways), military history, contemporary economics and economic history, contemporary and historical studies of countries in the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific. Most of these are available in lecture notes and Powerpoint images, on WordPress by Googling Ian’s name.

Ian and his wife Marie, who is also well known in U3A, have been married for 60 years, have three sons and five grandchildren.

Ian is of Anglo-Indian heritage, migrating to Australia with his mother and sister in 1948, at the age of 12, from India. They were later joined by his civil engineer father.

Ian volunteered for National Service in the Australian Army, in 1953, and completed his service, part time, in 1958, with an ambition to join the Regular Army. Instead, Ian met Marie.

Ian joined the Australian Public Service, and took advantage of a Free Place, part time University degree in Commerce. In 1964 he joined Comalco Industries, and then, later Dalgety Australia. From 1974 until his retirement in 1996, he worked in the very challenging area of public transport in NSW, completing a Masters’ degree in Transport Economics. Upon retirement he established a consultancy for five years and received a Doctor of Philosophy in Management, at Sydney University in 1997.

Apart from his abiding interest in teaching, at U3A, Ian received an Order of Australia Medal in 2011 for, Services to the Aged: Chair, Hornsby Shire Seniors Advisory Committee, member of the Indian Seniors Group, Committee Member, Social Entrepreneurial Ventures of Australian South Asians (SEVA). In addition, the Council of Indian Australian India Day 2011 awarded Ian its medal, for service to the community.

At 85 years of age, Ian fondly remembers chasing errant kites, with the other kids from Bishop Cotton’s School, down the massive hill slopes of Shimla. When you caught one, it was your prize, by “right of salvage”.

The first lecture series that Ian conducted was in 2000 entitled ‘The Australia the Railways Made’. Twenty-one years and forty courses later he has already planned his lecture series for second semester 2021 which will be entitled ‘The Shaping of Europe’.


In August 2015, Stewart presented for the first time at U3A.  Although he lives in U3A Sydney’s Harbourside North region, the lecture was for the Australian History Seminars series at Hornsby Library in Upper North. The subject was the Art Gallery of NSW – an organisation he has been involved with on a number of occasions during his life.

Since that first session with U3A, Stewart has run a variety of courses about museums and art history.  He currently has few additional courses under development due for presentation in 2022.  Many of his courses come from conversations with U3A members and he always welcomes new ideas.

Stewart loves sharing his knowledge with others and meeting people from different backgrounds and places.

How did he come to U3A?  Some years ago he was on the board at May Gibbs’ Nutcote in Neutral Bay.  He, with Susan Shaw of Stanton Library, North Sydney, co-curated an exhibition about May Gibbs’ fascinating life at the North Sydney Heritage Centre.  When Susan retired from the library she said she would keep in touch.  It wasn’t that long afterwards that she invited Stewart to have a cup of coffee and she requested politely, but firmly, that he became a U3A course leader.

Over the last six years he has presented in all Sydney U3A regions on a variety of topics about museums and art history with his last being Sydney’s Historic Houses at U3A Northern Beaches in Newport.

Stewart was born in Sydney and lived in a number of different suburbs.  While at high school he took art as a matriculation subject.  He took a part time job at an antiques shop and continued to work there when he left school.  However while he learnt a lot he decided that antiques were not a long term option.

His next job was as a computer operator and then programmer.  At the same time he maintained an interest in art, visiting exhibitions and joined a committee of Sydney’s Art Gallery Society.  At the Art Gallery one of the curators went on maternity leave and he was offered a job while she was away.  This gave Stewart an opportunity to work in a fascinating environment with a group of great people.  Unfortunately, when this finished there were no art gallery jobs available.

He decided to think about a career which hopefully was both interesting but paid reasonably well.  He decided to go back to computing, working with a shipping company in Sydney.  Luckily, he was able to get a transfer to London for eighteen months.  Stewart ended up working in the UK for 21 years. After a few years, he set up his own company and worked as a computer consultant, project manager and management consultant. He was also in demand as a teacher of computer courses. He ended up running courses and seminars throughout the UK and Australia.  He also ran a number of courses in Europe and New York.

One by-product of his career was travelling and being able to see a wide variety of museums and art galleries.  Eventually, he sold his company and returned home.  After a few years working for other computer companies in Sydney and Canberra he decided to change tack.

He acquired two Master’s degrees in Museum Studies: one coursework and one research – with a thesis about the Art Gallery of NSW.  This led to him being invited to give “the odd lecture” at various NSW universities and speak at conferences.  He also ran adult education courses for the University of Sydney.

He started to get involved in museums.  He became a volunteer, and then board member, at May Gibbs’ Nutcote where he did a considerable amount of research on her life and works.  He has also volunteered at Vaucluse House, Government House, the Mint, Admiralty House, Kirribilli House and Elizabeth Bay House

Stewart’s main hobby is museums. Even though he prefers art museums (as does his wife, Helen), he loves going to all types of museums. When people ask: What is your favourite museum?  Stewart responds with a direct answer: The next one’.