Dec 092023

Our guest speakers

Every fortnight during term time, we organise for someone to give a presentation to which any of our members can attend. Thanks to Cath Bauman and Pam Griffith for organising. Here are the talks over the past few years.

  • Alan Cuthbertson: Climate change and Extinction Rebellion.
  • Alan Flint: On being surrounded by money.
  • Brenda Fitzpatrick: Unlikely heroes in unlikely places.
  • Brian Devenish: Worldwide scamming.
  • Catherine Blakey: Tactics for hearing impaired people.
  • Cathy Guinness: On being a white woman in an Aboriginal world.
  • Chris Durham: Looking for answers.
  • Daryl Bolton: Welcome to the Shrine.
  • David Ronson: Forensic facts.
  • Dianne Parslow: Powerpoint.
  • Dianne Parslow: South America and Antarctica.
  • Fiona Malcolm: A recent Literature Festival Cruise.
  • Fiona Malcolm: Children’s books.
  • Fiona Malcolm: Desert island crime fiction.
  • Fiona Malcolm: Railway murders.
  • Fiona Malcolm: Rural noir – before and after The Dry.
  • Fiona Malcolm: ‘You at the barricades listen to this’.
  • Gaby Seymour: Maintaining bone health as you age.
  • Gavin Watson: Covid-19 pandemic hardship.
  • Geoff Paine: Geoff Paine.
  • Gillian Essex: Grandmothers for Refugees.
  • Graham Parslow: Vintage radio.
  • Graham Ray: The amazing art at the NGV.
  • Greg Papworth: Still worried about Covid?
  • Guy Palmer: A history of modern art.
  • Guy Palmer: Generating one’s own energy.
  • Guy Palmer: Google maps.
  • Guy Palmer: Poverty.
  • Guy Palmer: Social exclusion.
  • Guy Palmer: Ten interesting animals.
  • Guy Palmer: The best painting of the last 150 years.
  • Guy Palmer: Why ants work together in colonies.
  • Heather Wearne: The Referendum on a First Nations Voice.
  • Helen Durham: The laws of war.
  • Jim Connor: Eltham’s muddy history.
  • Jim Connor: Eltham pioneers and families.
  • Jim Connor: History of Old Eltham Courthouse.
  • Jim Connor: History of the Maroondah Aqueduct.
  • Jim Connor: The Old Eltham Courthouse restoration.
  • John Boothroyd: Bluegrass music.
  • June Rushton: Memories of a lighthouse keeper's daughter.
  • Kelvin & Beverly Spiller: People, personalities and preferences.
  • Liz Pidgeon: The history of your library service.
  • Louis Roller: Disease and medicines in Shakespeare’s plays.
  • Louis Roller: Hair.
  • Louis Roller: Human smiles.
  • Louis Roller: Music and well-being.
  • Louis Roller: My story.
  • Louis Roller: The placebo-nocebo conundrum
  • Louis Roller: What do your blood test results mean?
  • Louis Roller: You and your medicines.
  • Louise Heathcote: The Camino de Santiago.
  • Melinda Clarke: How the Melbourne Map was made.
  • Nick Szwed: Back to the USSR.
  • Philomena Holman: Montmorency Asylum Seekers Support Group.
  • Tammy Shepherd: Mercy Ships.
  • Terry Beaton: the Burma Railway.
  • Victorian Energy Compare.
  • Wayne Kinrade: Eltham copper butterfly.
  • Wiebke Wenzel: The North East Link Program.
  • Zara Thompson: Music therapy and ageing.
  • Mar 272024

    The NGV is the largest art gallery in Australia. This illustrated talk by Graham Ray, who is an erstwhile NGV Voluntary Guide, looked at a selection of works from the NGV, from different countries, and across different periods of time. The talk revealed the richness and diversity in the collection, and also some of the less well-known intriguing stories behind these works (Which work of art was stolen from the wall of the NGV? Which well-known artist has his artistic design work on the wrapping paper of lollies available in Coles?).

    Mar 132024

    John Boothroyd talked about bluegrass music, a genre of American roots music that evolved in the 1940s by the ‘father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. The talk centred on how the music developed from early settlers from Britain and Ireland in the 18th century to the Appalachian region of America. They brought their musical traditions with them and their old ballads, love songs, instrumental and dance tunes lived on in their often isolated mountain communities over many years.

    Bluegrass today enjoys a large following in America and elsewhere. Its down to earth feel, with its influences of folk, blues, Americana and old-time country music giving it wide appeal. It often features fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar and upright bass and close vocal harmonies.

    John also played some examples of the music from recordings during the presentation.

    John has been involved with old-time country music and bluegrass since the late 1960s, as teacher, performer and author.

    Feb 282024

    Wiebke Wenzel, who works for North East Link, discussed two current major road projects that will transform the Greensborough to Rosanna area. The 6.5km North East Link tunnels from Watsonia to Bulleen will fix the missing link in our city’s freeway network, hopefully take 15,000 trucks off local roads a day and reduce travel times by up to 35 minutes. The M80 Ring Road Completion will upgrade the M80 Ring Road, connect to the new North East Link tunnels and move through-traffic under a new Grimshaw Street interchange.

    Feb 132024

    As Les Miserables approached its 40th anniversary in the West End, Fiona Malcolm discussed what makes this show so popular and how has it changed since its first performance. She showed clips from different productions and discussed the phenomenon that is Les Mis.

    Nov 292023

    On 29th November, Louise discussed her 2022 1,000 km walk from Pau in France to Santiago in Spain. She found it an interesting way to see Spain, meet different people, slow travel, immerse herself in the camino culture and community of non-judgement and gratitude, reflect on life and know herself better. She talked about what it means to be a pilgrim and to follow the pilgrim way.

    The presentation was a bit of a travel diary, interspersed with some stories about getting lost, the kindness of strangers and being curious and adventurous.

    Nov 152023

    Chris Durham shared how some of her experiences led to her searching for and finding answers.

    Left with a damaged brain and body and crushed spirit and hope after a car accident, she searched for ways to get going again, and ways to help people with brain injury. She realised that, as a young child having spent time going on ‘thinking walks’ with her dad, these walks played a significant role in getting going again. This led to her searching for ways to empower students to think for themselves, through workshops at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School.

    The experience of moving to Thailand in the late 1970s forced her to search for answers as to why the family of six were hit for six with drugs planted on them, children kidnapped and death threats. Was it all her fault? Epiphanies, answers and resolution showed that it is possible to find what we are looking for.

    Nov 012023

     On 1st November, Guy gave a presentation on how he has lessened his use of external energy, particularly fossil fuels. Guy first installed a battery-based solar system in 2013, the main aim being not to use any grid electricity for most of the year. In 2019, he bought an electric car, the main aim being to utilise his surplus generated energy. He talked about the battery, the electric car and how the whole thing works together to minimise his external energy footprint.

    View/download Guy’s presentation (pdf).

    Sep 062023

    On 6th September, Philomena Holman gave a presentation on the Montmorency Asylum Seekers Support Group (MASSG). MASSG has been advocating for humane treatment of asylum seekers in Australia for the last 20 years. Their membership of around 200 people includes many Nillumbik residents. Philomena discussed: MASSG’s current campaigns and activities to support people still seeking official acceptance of their claims; their personal experiences of supporting individuals; and their experience of communicating with politicians, their successes & failures, with a few tips for others wanting to lobby.

    Aug 232023

    On 23rd August, Liz Pidgeon gave a presentation on the Yarra Plenty Regional Library, which provides public library service for the municipalities of Banyule, Nillumbik and Whittlesea. This presentation discussed the origins of the library service, where it has come from and its service today, with specific references to the Shire of Nillumbik.

    Aug 092023

    On 9th August, Geoff Paine discussed various aspects of his working life.

    As well as being one of the Eltham Councillors, Geoff currently works at BehaviourWorks at Monash University, helping explain behavioural science. Geoff has spent much of his life as an actor. He began his career on the TV show Neighbours in 1986, and then worked as an actor for decades in the film, theatre, TV and radio industries. He has written for stage and TV, worked as an event producer and facilitator.

    Jun 212023

    Leading Senior Constable Alison Keppel spoke on Crime Prevention and Safety in the Community. Sergeant Mark Spriggs spoke on Cyber Safety and Scams.

    Jun 072023

    The Shrine of Remembrance is Victoria’s pre-eminent memorial to the service and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women in conflicts and peacekeeping. On 7th June, Daryl Bolton discussed the Shrine’s heritage from its conception to the present day and included stories of the brave men and women that served during the conflict that was the First World War.

    May 242023

    On 24th May, Helen Durham gave a captivating and informative presentation on International Humanitarian Law and its impact on armed conflict. She unpacked the key elements of the laws of war (as found in the Geneva Conventions and other treaties) as well as focusing on the prosecution of sexual violence in war as a crime. She also touched on issues relating to the regulation of weapons, in particular the recent treaties on nuclear weapons.

    May 102023

    On 10th May, Guy Palmer gave a talk about getting the most out of Google Maps and, in so doing, illustrated some of the sorts of things that you can now do with your phone. Particular aspects that he covered included: controlling your phone by voice; controlling your car’s audiovisual system; searching for types of thing (e.g. nearby cafes that are open now); interacting with businesses (e.g. ringing them); creating multi-stop routes; saving routes; sharing your location with others; using maps whilst offline; creating your own maps; your history and timeline; and streetview.

    Mar 012023

    On 1st March, Alan Flint talked about his 39 year banking career, initially with the Commonwealth Bank, then with the Reserve Bank of Australia in Melbourne where, inter alia, he supervised the destruction of soiled, mutilated, misprinted notes and postage stamps.

    After retiring, he took up a position at a rare coin and banknote company.

    Feb 152023

    On 15th February, Dianne shared the highlights and photos of her recent trip to South America and Antarctica. Dianne and her husband travelled to Quito and Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Lima (Peru), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Antarctica and Patagonia (southern Chile). Dianne’s main interest is the wide variety of animals and birds seen on the trip.

    Nov 162022

    On 16th November, Professor David Ranson, a professor at both Monash Medical School and the La Trobe University Law School, took us behind the doors of the Melbourne mortuary and explained what goes on when a death is reported to the Coroner.

    Nov 022022

    On 2nd November, Wayne Kinrade, a Nillumbik Council Officer, the convenor of the Friends of the Eltham Copper Butterfly and a co-founder of Nillumbio, gave a talk about the natural and local history of the Eltham Copper Butterfly, including its life cycle, locations where it can be found and threats to the butterfly’s existence. He explained the importance of the butterfly as a flagship species. Efforts to protect the butterfly were be described, as well as the implications for supporting broader biodiversity enhancement.

    Oct 192022

    On 19th October, Nillumbik U3A member Cathy Guinness gave a talk about being a white woman in an Aboriginal world. For 40 years, Cathy has been the partner of a prominent Yorta Yorta man, Wayne Atkinson, as he has journeyed through the political upheavals of these years as a leader – putting Aboriginal voices into history, reclaiming ownership of Aboriginal heritage, the Native Title court cases, the campaign for joint management of national parks, and now the work to tell the truth about our past. Cathy has learned from Wayne what it is to be an Aboriginal activist, and she has come to understand about being white in an Aboriginal community.

    Aug 242022

    On 24th August, Nick Szwed gave a talk entitled back to the USSR to a sellout crowd. The talk covered: the origin of Slavic peoples, the Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians; how they live today – where Nick’s parents were born; Nick’s parents’ journey from Belarus to Australia; the breakup of the USSR – a missed opportunity; the dictator of Belarus vs people wanting democracy; Kazakhstan and Ukraine; and Putin’s plan to go back to the USSR.


    Aug 102022

    On 10th August, Terry Beaton, current Nillumbik U3A member and erstwhile curator at Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum on the Burma Railway, gave a talk on the Burma Railway to a packed audience of our members. He talked about the history and cost of the infamous ‘Burma to Siam Rail Link’ built by multi-national POWs and forced Asian slave labour for the Japanese invasion of India during WW2.


    After the talk, Terry presented a spike from the railway to Nancie Marchbank, whose father was on the railway during WW2. In response, Nancie wrote the following: “I recently attended the presentation from Terry Beaton on the Thai/Burma Railway. Not only was this extremely interesting but it meant a lot to me as my father was on the railway during the Second World War. Dad would never talk about the war or his internment at all. I travelled to Hellfire Pass about 12 years ago but listening to Terry I learnt a lot more. In addition, Terry gave me a genuine POW-made dog spike from the Railway. It was made in Japanese workshops between 1942-45. Terry found the spike in 2000 at Wampo Viaduct. I sincerely thank Terry for this gift and hope that he knows how much it will mean to me and my family.

    Jul 272022

    On 27th July, Nillumbik U3A member Brenda Fitzpatrick gave a talk to a packed audience about the many unlikely heroes that she has met in unlikely places during her work for an international humanitarian agency, writing and speaking about human rights – especially about women and girls in war – and reporting on humanitarian needs in places of conflict and disasters. Her book, Tactical Rape in War and Conflict (2016) was about the use of rape as a deliberate tactic of war and how this is a serious human rights issue that needs to be addressed as a threat to human and international security. Her more recent novel, Gwennie’s Girl (2019) was her first foray into fiction and used stories that she heard and experienced.

    Jun 222022

    On Wednesday, 22nd June, Gabby Seymour, who is a physiotherapist based in Eltham, provided an educative and practical session on maintaining bone health as you age. She demonstrated practical balance exercises that you can do at home to maintain bone health, mobility, balance and prevent falls.

    May 112022

    On Wednesday, 11th May, Brian Devenish gave a talk on worldwide scamming. One of his main suggestions was that you shouldn’t buy directly from social media.

    May 062022

    On Friday, 6th May, newly retired doctor, Greg Papworth, met with some of our members to discuss any concerns, questions or issues that they had about the current situation. One of his main messages was that our members should make sure to get their flu vaccine this Winter: because of all the lockdowns, there have been only minimal numbers of flu cases over the last two years and this will have lowered the average immunity in the population which, in turn, is likely to mean that we will have a bad flu season this year.

    Mar 022022

    On 2nd March, Gillian Essex and Janine Laurence, from the Jagajaga branch of Grandmothers for Refugees (G4R), discussed the history of the movement, the issues facing refugees in Australia today, and the role of G4R in advocating for them.

    (G4R) is a grassroots movement that has evolved from Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children. With a large membership base across both the suburbs of Melbourne and in regional Victoria, G4R’s focus is the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum. Being a grandmother is not a pre-requisite for becoming involved, as G4R also welcomes the support of ‘friends of grandmothers’, affectionally known as FROGS. G4R also collaborates at times with other like-minded groups. In addition to their advocacy role, many grandmothers – either individually or collectively at branch level – provide direct support to refugees and people seeking asylum.

    Feb 162022

    On 16th February, Graham Parslow, who is the president of the Historical Radio Society of Australia, gave around 20 of us a presentation on 150 years of radio, from scientific curiosity to mature technology.

    Radios from the 20th century were illustrated by examples from Graham’s collection of 600 radios. It is likely that you grew up at a time when radio was a major home entertainment and fondly recollect that radio and the times your family spent by it in the kitchen or lounge. Radios are now highly collectable for their beauty and their technology, with the cabinets reflecting the tastes of society spanning art-deco to modern minimalist.

    Dec 012021

    On 1st December, Catherine Blakey discussed communication and hearing tactics for hearing impaired people and their family, friends and colleagues.

    As a person with a lifelong hearing loss, and as a hearing aid user for 60 years, Catherine has developed many hearing tactics. Hearing tactics are assertive approaches towards communication that you can actively use to improve your social interaction and communication in the environment. You can take charge of some situations to best suit your needs. This helps family and friends to send, receive and understand the message.

    Read Catherine’s advice on this subject for our classes.

    Nov 172021

    On 17th November, a full house at Eltham Central Pavilion voted on the best painting of the last 150 years.

    The eventual winner was Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s The luncheon of the boating party (1881).

    The runner up was Frederick McCubbin’s The pioneer (1904).

    The following painters were represented in the competition: Bazille, Bouguereau, Braque, Caillebotte, Cezanne, Chagall, Church, Dali, De Chirico, De Kooning, Degas, Derain, Dobell, Ernst, Gauguin, Gorky, Gris, Hamilton, Harris, Heysen, Hockney, Hopper, Johns, Kahlo, Kandinsky, Kinkade, Kirchner, Klee, Klimt, Leger, Lichtenstein, Lowry, Magritte, Manet, Marc, Matisse, McCubbin, Miro, Modigliani, Mondrian, Monet, Munch, Namatjira, Newman, Nolan, Nolde, O’Keefe, Palmer, Picasso, Pissarro, Pollock, Rauschenberg, Renoir, Richter, Robinson, Rockwell, Rothko, Rousseau, Schiele, Seurat, Shishkin, Sisley, Smart, Tanguy, Thiebaud, Toulouse-Lautrec, Turton, Van Gogh, Vlaminck, Warhol, Waterhouse, Whiteley and Wood.

    Nov 032021

    Mercy Ships is a global organisation which brings hope and healing to communities who need it most. It uses floating hospitals to provide medical care to those in desperate need of surgery and medical treatment.

    This talk was given by Tammy Shepherd. Tammy is a hospital-based physiotherapist whose good education and economic stability has allowed her to volunteer extensively with Mercy Ships and elsewhere. Her husband and adult children are supportive of her service to the African people via both Mercy Ships and mentoring local physios in a hospital in Congo.

    Oct 202021

    On 20th October, Louis Roller, from Monash University, gave a talk on Zoom about the placebo-nocebo conundrum.

    The placebo-nocebo conundrum is about the effect that inactive substances can have on individuals. The term ‘placebo’ comes from the Latin placare, meaning to please, while the term ‘nocebo’, or nocere, means the opposite. This talk discussed the implications of the placebo/nocebo effect in medicines, how they work and their use in clinical trials. It also looked at evidence of the actual existence of the placebo and the mindset required for its effects.

    Click here to view/download Louis’ handout.

    Jul 282021

    On 28th July, Louis Roller, from Monash University, gave a talk on Zoom about human smiles, their function and the various meanings given to different types of smiles.

    Among humans, a smile expresses delight, sociability, happiness, joy or amusement. It is distinct from a similar, but usually involuntary, expression of anxiety known as a grimace.

    Although cross-cultural studies have shown that smiling is a means of communication throughout the world, there are large differences among different cultures, religions and societies, with some using smiles to convey confusion or embarrassment.

    Click here to view/download Louis’ slides (all 120 of them!).

    May 112021

    On 11th May, U3A member June Rushton gave a talk about what it was like being the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, living variously at Bruny Island, Swan Island, Cape Sorrell, Wilsons Promontory, Cape Otway and Cape Nelson. Everyone who attended found it very interesting.

    Mar 312021

    On 31st March, U3A members Kelvin and Beverly Spiller gave a presentation on understanding your own and others’ personal preferences for how information is taken in and decisions are made, and how to think about how others interact with you, you with them and they with one another.

    Mar 172021

    On 17th March, Jim Connor, from the Eltham Historical Society, gave a talk on some of the notable Eltham ‘pioneers’, both during the early days and in later times. One dictionary definition of a pioneer is a colonist, explorer or settler of a new land or region, an innovator or developer of something new. Many people in many ways contributed to the establishment of the area we know as Eltham and their pioneering activities helped develop the town and the region.

    Nov 302020

    Melinda Clarke, who is driving force behind The Melbourne Map website, which includes illustrated maps of Melbourne in both 1991 and 2019, discussed how the illustrated maps were produced. She explained the project, beginning with the idea’s conception and publication of the first illustrated map back in 1991. She shared the trials and tribulations of bringing the project to fruition from research, design, crowd funding, publishing and product development.

    2019 map of Melbourne 1991 map of Melbourne
    Oct 272020

    On 27th October, Fiona Malcolm, who works for Melbourne Athenaeum Library, ran a session on what crime novel would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island. She kicked things off with some of her ‘must take’ and most re-read crime novels before asking the audience for their suggestions.

    Here are Fiona’s own suggestions.

    They ‘select themselves’ Connelly, Michael The Poet
    Christie, Agatha And Then There Were None OR Murder On The Orient Express
    Tracy, P.J. Want to Play? (apa Monkeewrench)
    Locke, Attica Bluebird, Bluebird
    Dostoevsky, Fyodor Crime And Punishment
    Almost made it Barton, Fiona The Widow
    Berna, Paul A Hundred Million Francs
    Blyton, Enid Five Go To Billycock Hill
    Bolton, Sharon Little Black lies
    Clark, Douglas The Gimmel Flask OR Golden Rain
    Flynn, Gillian Sharp Objects
    French, Tana In The Woods
    Griffiths, Elly The Stranger Diaries
    Lippman, Laura Sunburn
    McGown, Jill Murders Of Mrs Austin & Mrs Beale
    McIlvanney, William Laidlaw
    Neel, Janet Death’s Bright Angel OR Death On Site
    Sayers, Dorothy L. Gaudy Night OR Nine Tailors
    The series Grafton, Sue The Alphabet series
    Muller, Marcia Sharon McCone series
    Rankin, Ian Rebus series
    The Aussies Cleary, Jon Scobie Malone series
    Disher, Garry Dragon Man
    Downes, Anna No Safe Place
    Kovacic, Katherine Portrait Of Molly Dean
    Maloney, Shane Stiff
    Oct 132020

    On 13th October, Louis Roller discussed his journey from hunted untermensch to successful academic. Louis was born in Paris of Jewish parents three months before the fall of Paris to the Nazis. Despite life-threatening events and many near-misses, Louis survived the holocaust and arrived in Australia in 1947. He was the first refugee seen at the primary school he went to, had no English and was highly traumatised. Despite all this, Louis has managed to have a successful academic career in pharmacy and medicine.

    Aug 242020

    On 18th August, Jim Connor, from the Eltham Historical Society, gave a talk via Zoom on the history of using earth to create various types of structures, extending from early days up to the more recent use of mud bricks for housing in Eltham and the surrounding area. Around 30 of our members attended.

    Aug 042020

    On 4th August, Zara Thompson, who is a registered Music Therapist working with children and adults with disabilities and people seeking asylum, gave a talk about music therapy and ageing. It started with an overview of how and why music can be useful to health and wellbeing and finished with some experiential music activities to demonstrate how music can impact mood and physical health.

    Mar 242020

    Dianne Parslow was planning to run a few training sessions on Powerpoint but the coronavirus got in the way. So she has turned her session into a little online course. Just follow these instructions. When you have completed Part I of the instructions, you should have something that looks like this powerpoint presentation.

    For some further tips, read this powerpoint presentation, remembering to select 'slide show' to show all aspects of this demonstration. Dianne is happy to give individual help via email ( or phone (0434 986 424).