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Community, Education Training

The WEA: Celebrating 110 Years of Changing The Lives of South Australians

WEA Adult Learning (The Workers Educational Association of SA Inc) 4 mins read
The WEA at 223 Angas Street, Adelaide will host a FREE Community Open Day on Sunday 15th October from 10am to 4pm, with activities to suit all ages.

The WEA (Workers Educational Association) has been the place where South Australians have learnt how to ‘say hello in Spanish’, ‘clip your schnauzer’, ‘start a small business’ and just about anything else you can imagine, for 110 years.


To mark this milestone, this much-loved institution is inviting all South Australians to a FREE community Open Day this Sunday 15th October from 10am to 4pm. More than 50 course topics will be showcased with a dazzling array of demonstrations, tastings, mini-lectures and more.


The WEA 110th Anniversary Open Day will be formally opened by Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia, and attended by Mr Rod Bunten. The Deputy Premier of South Australia, The Honourable Susan Close MP, and The Leader of the Opposition, The Honourable David Speirs MP will also attend.


WEA CEO Lesley Venning says the organisation is unique in South Australia, and its legacy is significant.


“There are thousands of stories about the WEA changing the lives of our students and tutors, and we take great pride in having played a role in those transformations,” Ms Venning explains.


The WEA also prides itself on its inclusiveness and its social impact is enormous. Students and tutors talk about it being a place where ‘you can meet your tribe’ and ‘share your passion’, and while there are no exact figures, it’s believed the ballroom dancing classes alone resulted in more than 100 weddings over the years.


A quick glance through any one of the WEA’s course guides show the changing interests and passions of South Australians through the decades:


  • In the early days university-style subjects such as literature, economics and politics were the focus;
  • The post-WW2 period saw the introduction of topics examining homes, gardens, entertaining and fashion;
  • By the 1970s the WEA was offering what some called ‘alternative subjects’ and South Australians were enrolling in record breaking numbers in courses on ‘foot reflexology’, ‘creative divorce’ and ‘how to live with a cat’. Health and fitness courses and the beginnings of ‘new age’ metaphysical courses were also added;
  • In 1978 the first international study tour was offered with 16 students escorted on an educational tour to China;
  • From the early 1980s there were courses on computing where tutors provided their own computer for demonstration purposes. Commodore 64 machines gave way to the establishment of the Computer Training Centre in 1987 which enabled students to learn in a practical ‘hands-on’ environment. In the same year WEA Travel was registered as a licenced travel agency offering small-group, fully escorted, domestic, and international tours with a focus on cultural and educational experiences.


In 2023 the WEA remains as flexible and adaptable as ever. While it may be known for the ‘weird and wacky’ topics, its course program also covers more traditional skills-based and personal development streams. WEA students attend courses for many reasons – for some it is a place to better themselves through learning new skills, for others it is an affordable and accessible pathway to further education, and for many it is a warm and welcoming place to find social connection and inclusion.


In keeping with its philosophy, the Open Day program includes a rich variety of course samplers including Modern World History, Sharpening Garden Tools, Roman Spain, Facial/Head Acupressure, Simplifying Aged Care, French Language, Enjoy Your Wine, The Wonder of Klingon and much more.


Ms Venning says “The South Australian community has truly embraced the WEA over the years. The WEA 110th Anniversary Open Day is our way of saying thank you and acknowledging that we wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for this ongoing support. It’s also a way that we can invite the next generation of learners to experience what we have to offer.”


The WEA 110th Anniversary Open Day is a free event open to all ages and will be held at the WEA at 223 Angas Street, Adelaide on Sunday 15th October 2023 from 10:00am to 4:00pm.




Key Facts:

The WEA 110th Anniversary Open Day is a FREE event suitable for all ages, with more than 50 free demonstrations, tastings, mini lectures, prizes and more. It's happening on Sunday 15th October from 10:00am to 4:00pm at 223 Angas Street, Adelaide and will be formally opened by Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia, and Mr Rod Bunten. The Deputy Premier of South Australia, The Honourable Susan Close MP, and The Leader of the Opposition, The Honourable David Speirs MP will also be in attendance.

About us:

More information:


Founded in 1913, the Workers' Educational Association (The WEA) of South Australia aims to provide a broad range of learning opportunities which meet community needs and expectations and provide pathways to work, further study and personal development; in an inclusive and welcoming environment for the benefit of both individuals and the society at large.


Throughout its history the WEA has demonstrated a continuous commitment to social justice principles and second chance education.


Another constant has been the firm belief by South Australians of how ‘their WEA’ should be run and what it should offer. This support from the broader South Australian community has kept the WEA going, even in its darkest days of financial struggle, when it had to hold jumble sales to keep afloat.


It could not have survived without the quality of teaching by the thousands of dedicated tutors whose spirit and enthusiasm have inspired so many. Over the years many high-profile speakers such as Bob Hawke presented lectures while well-known South Australians including Mark Oliphant and John Bannon championed the WEA at national gatherings.


Today the WEA provides learning opportunities for anyone aged 15 years or older, with more than 1000 short courses offered each year across a broad range of topics. There are generally no pre-requisites for courses and no assessment or exams. The organisation also provides a flexible source of income to more than 200 contracted tutors each year.

Contact details:

Kelly Hody, Marketing Coordinator, or 0439878288

Lesley Venning, CEO, or 0417398382


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