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Marcus Wearne, Committee. Member since 2012
‘What part of ‘Do nothing!’ do you not understand?’ So said a long-term friend of mine upon hearing that after retiring I had travelled with my partner to Taiwan (where the accompanying photo was taken); booked a further overseas trip; enrolled in French and History classes; and begun teaching English to migrants as a volunteer. I guess he had shifted gradually into retirement and enjoyed long, leisurely days with no special commitments.
Retirement came unexpectedly early for me. Although only 55 this year, the offer of a redundancy package at work meant I could pay off the mortgage and not have to endure the endless meetings, interstate travel and organisational politics for a further three years or so. (Human Resources in the Australian Public Service can be very demanding).
But now I had a whole lot more time (and energy) on my hands and like most people I could not imagine resting on my laurels day in and day out.
Being an organised person, and not one who prefers to leave things to chance, I had started to think about retirement about the time I turned 50. A bit like trying on different hats and seeing if they fit, I tried to conceptualise what sort of life style I would be leading. Apart from my love of science fiction and fantasy novels (perhaps there’s a short course I could run one day?) and my commitment to the yoga and ‘spin’ classes at the gym, one of the key ingredients was going to be doing some further study. I have this theory that as we age we start to ‘revert to type’ and take up things we enjoyed when we were younger – and I have to say that my days at Adelaide University were amongst my best.
I admit I had never even heard of U3A until a colleague at work told me all about it. So within days of retiring I marched up to the 2nd floor of Ross House to join and received a most welcome compliment from the office volunteers: ‘I’m sorry we can’t help you - you see, you have to be over 50 to join the U3A and you don’t look old enough!’.
Of course, with my joining the U3A came the suggestion I might engage in some volunteer work . . . and that might increase my chances of getting into my preferred courses! Well, perhaps I ticked too many boxes, but the last thing I expected was to be co-opted onto the management committee.
My background is a little diverse, so it will be interesting to see which bits come to the fore. I taught ancient history, geography and German in the countryside of South Australia for five years (a sobering experience after the politics and cosmopolitan nature of campus life). For example, whilst at university I joined the Australia - China friendship society and in 1978 undertook a study tour of China just after the ‘Gang of Four’ had been arrested. That was my first overseas trip and so began my great love of overseas travel. High school teaching was demanding, yet winning a Goethe Institute scholarship to study in Berlin for two months was a memorable experience and helped my language skills considerably.
Being an incredible idealist, and chasing ideals of community living, I tried living in a religious (Franciscan) community for three years in Brisbane (what a disaster!) But although it nearly killed me, I did learn about music, pottery-making and how to look after fruit trees; and I spent a lot time helping the down and out in the inner city. I also got to spend time in the Holy Land, and wearing a habit opened all sorts of interesting doors. Funny how the overseas travel keeps popping up….
I joined the Commonwealth public service in 1987 as a Trade Marks examiner (para-legal type work) in Canberra and soon after found my way into the Tax Office in Adelaide. My career there was mostly in the staff training and development area but I found my best fit in the last five years, looking after a team promoting workplace diversity and attending to human rights issues. I have come to realise I am quite passionate about social justice.
Though I grizzle about the meetings, the Australian Public Service was wonderfully supportive (for example, it enabled me to complete my Masters degree in HR) and saw me take up positions in Sydney, Canberra and finally Melbourne. The work could be challenging too: imagine being involved in recruiting 5,000 extra staff when the GST was introduced and planning their 7-week induction course! And needless to say I’ve had plenty of time to undertake overseas trips.
I am not sure yet how these experiences will equip me for volunteer work with U3A but I am keen to be involved and help out where I can. It’s important to me that I continue to keep active mentally and socially and I think we all want to make a difference, or at least have a sense of being valued for who we are. My early impression of U3A is that it will be a great place for this.
Marcus Wearne, January 2013