No. 6 August 2020
Message from the Committee
It was with some anxiety that we approached the reopening of the Centre for term 3. Would our COVID-19 Safety Plan prove satisfactory? Would our volunteers be able to implement all aspects of the plan? Would conveners and class members willingly comply with the restrictions? So we are relieved to report that everything has gone smoothly so far and thank you all for your cooperation and understanding.
Although there had been some concern that demand for the limited number of courses on offer might exceed the places available it is clear that many members have elected to wait a while before returning to classes. The cancellation of a handful of courses due to low enrolments has also eased pressure on space and volunteers.
COVID Marshalls Sue Moll & Jacqui Everett
A few questions were raised as to why new membership applications had been suspended. The decision to do this was taken when we first began to look at reopening the Centre for term 3 and was intended to forestall the possibility of new members taking up places in courses to the exclusion of current members. It also appeared unfair to accept fees from new members when we could not guarantee that courses would be run. The situation remains under review at this stage.
It hardly needs saying that closure of the Centre has affected our financial position. Although receiving no income for more than five months expenditure has continued on maintenance, safety, general equipment, licence fees, cleaning, pest control and so on, placing a drain on our reserves. We would, however, like to acknowledge the generous support we have received from St Agnes Parish during what has been a difficult period.
Our sincere thanks also go to those volunteers who, throughout the closure, made the best of the opportunity to improve our systems and facilities for what we all hope will be a brighter future.
Members love the garden, the jewel in the Centre’s crown. But how many of us know who keeps the jewel’s facets so brightly polished? Well, if you read the Port Macquarie News on 10 August you’d have found the answer in an article by Lisa Tisdell headed ‘Greg Dark is proud of Port Macquarie Hastings U3A garden’.
Greg is our garden guru as well as being treasurer of the Port Macquarie Garden Club. It was he, assisted by the late Laurie Lardner, who transformed the courtyard from what was, in 2013, an overgrown, weed-infested space into a little piece of paradise, choosing plants with a variety of foliage and colourful flowers to create a peaceful sanctuary. Yet work in a garden is never-ending and Greg can be found there every weekend, rain or shine.
The Parish has approved a request to mark our parking spaces ‘U3A Only’. The work will be done by volunteers and should be completed shortly. It is important that we preserve them for our sole use given the pressure on parking generally and the obvious success of the recently-opened St Agostina Café.
Vale Ken Churchill
U3A lost a valuable member a few weeks ago when Ken Churchill passed away after a battle with cancer. Ken had been our A/V Manager for the last seven years, looking after all our TV and audio systems as well as rigging up equipment for events such as the Melbourne Cup Lunches, Christmas Parties and concerts. His contribution to U3A was immense and he also had his own business, KennyKactus Electronics (more on the name later).
But what many of us weren’t aware of was Ken’s earlier career as a musician. From his late teens he was at the heart of the music industry in Australia. In 1961 no less an icon than Johnny O’Keefe bought Ken his first electric guitar, a Fender Jazz bass which Ken treasured throughout his life.
He started playing professionally with JOK while he was still underage, and he backed many famous local and overseas artists, including Winifred Atwell, Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bette Midler and more, whilst artists such as Fabian and Ray Columbus and the Invaders were the support acts for Jade Hurley when Ken was working with him.
Ken played with the Jade Hurley Showband throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s, and was a member of Sounds Quintette which was nominated for Variety Artistes "Mo" Awards in the category of ‘Best Backing Band’ three times in the 1970s – but never won. Robbed!
Sounds Quintette' with Jade Hurley became regulars on the Mike Walsh Show, with a weekly residency for two years. They also did studio work and went on gruelling tours up and down the east coast of Australia, finishing exhausted or – as we might say – 'cactus'. That's how Ken became 'Kenny Kactus'!
His last gig was in 2014 when he played with local group The Day Trippers. Michael Spooner, a member of the group, has produced a short video tribute to Ken which you can find at
Tribute to Ken
Ken will be greatly missed, the unassuming manner, the quiet voice, and most of all the engaging smile that rarely left his face – except, perhaps, when he was ‘cactus’.