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Voices of our Volunteers

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8 min read
A message from the Volunteer Manager: I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have served as Harbour Trust Volunteer Manager since 2003 and have witnessed or played a part in many great initiatives. These have included opening our protected sites to the public, beautifying and restoring their natural and built heritage, delivering memorable visitor experiences, and ensuring the stories of each site, so central to Sydney’s wider narrative, are not lost.

Many of these undertakings would not have been possible without our amazing team of volunteers. Each volunteer has their own story to tell, and the Harbour Trust has benefitted greatly from their unique perspectives, special skillsets and length of service. Indeed, some volunteers have been with us since the very beginning and we’ve welcomed many more into the fold since then.

Put simply: Harbour Trust volunteers are our best ambassadors and – through their dedication, time and passion – we continue to ensure visitors and Sydneysiders alike enjoy the heritage destinations under our care.

This being the Harbour Trust’s 20th anniversary year, I’d like to personally thank and acknowledge the volunteer team for their invaluable contribution to the Harbour Trust’s success. It’s been quite a journey and we are confident you’ll help us achieve even greater things in years to come. But enough from me. Let’s hear from some of the volunteers we’ve been privileged to work with over the years…

Catherine Enright
Volunteer Manager

Anne Richardson – Visitor Services Volunteer

In 2007, I retired from teaching after a career spanning 40 years. It was a job I loved. Later that year, I attended a talk on the Harbour Trust, held at Hunters Hill Sailing Club. I recall seeing Cockatoo Island, across the water, and being impressed by the work of the Harbour Trust. I particularly admired their vision for celebrating – and guaranteeing a future for – some of Sydney’s most historic sites.

As a visitor services volunteer with a background in teaching, I’ve loved inspiring visitors to discover new information and have experiences beyond their everyday life. It’s been an honour and privilege meeting people, including fellow Harbour Trust volunteers, from all kinds of places. I’ve also appreciated the outings and ‘thank you’ events organised by the Harbour Trust – they make us feel valued and respected.

My proudest moment was receiving a Nic Hollo print and a special badge to commemorate my first ten years of service with the Harbour Trust. They hang in pride of place on my wall and, when I look at them, I think fondly of my time as a volunteer. Other treasured memories include opening the Cockatoo Island campground with Peter Garett; celebrating the restoration of Biloela House; all the times I’ve convinced people to join the volunteer team; and getting to bump into former students and their parents, either at the North Fort or Cockatoo Island visitor centre.

Now, with the certainty provided by the recent Harbour Trust review, I look forward to further adventures and memories.

Audrey Wacks – Visitor Services Volunteer

I first visited Cockatoo Island two years ago and quickly fell in love with the magnificent place. I loved how close it was to the city and was surprised how easy it was to get to from Circular Quay. I also found myself intrigued by its history, having previously had little knowledge of it, and remember thinking the view of Sydney Harbour and the city skyline from the Superintendent’s cottage was the best I’d ever seen. I spent the most time in the Convict Precinct and am certain I read every single plaque.

I was approaching retirement at the time and, in the back of my mind, knew I would offer to volunteer when the time was right. My first day with the Harbour Trust was spent with a passionate trainer as well as a lovely volunteer. It was a sunny day and the island attracted more visitors than it had in ages – it was great! I appreciate getting to be involved with a wonderful piece of history, right here in Sydney Harbour, and look forward to all the shifts I’ll spend there in the future.

Ian Taylor – Volunteer North Fort Tour Guide

My time as a volunteer with the Harbour Trust was a flow-on from my work with the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company and the National Artillery Museum at North Fort. I’d already spent years identifying and collecting data and photographs relevant to the history of North Head, including North Fort. So, joining the volunteer team was an opportunity for me to continue pursuing my interest in the history of North Head; in particular, North Fort

I derive a great deal of satisfaction in sharing my knowledge and experience with other volunteers and helping deliver a meaningful experience for visitors. In fact, the comradery and sense of community within the volunteer team – as well as amongst Harbour Trust staff – contributes to my wellbeing. It’s a caring and sharing organisation that encourages volunteer contributions and allows dissenting voices to be heard.

Even in recent times, faced with physical disabilities, I’ve been able to contribute to the reopening of the North Fort Plotting Room. Fitting the whole North Battery Site into the Sydney Fire Command has been a favourite research project. Some of the changes I’ve applauded during my time as a volunteer include the refurbishment of the tunnel complex at North Fort as well as other developments across North Head including signage, interpretation, facilities.

Now that the stewardship of the Harbour Trust has been confirmed, there can be a greater sense of purpose and development of ideas.

Toni Stevenson – North Head Nursery Volunteer

Congratulations to the Harbour Trust on their 20th Anniversary! My fellow volunteers and I have enjoyed buffing up the landscaping at North Head Sanctuary. As well, we do enjoy seeing The Harbour Trust improvements to buildings and tracks – long may it continue!

John and Yvonne Lewis –Visitor Services Volunteers

It was 19 years ago that we retired and moved to Mosman. Looking for interesting local things to do in our retirement, we responded to a Harbour Trust advertisement for volunteers to help deliver various events celebrating the opening of their sites to the public. We were one of the first husband and wife partnerships brought on.

In our two decades with the Harbour Trust, we’ve had the opportunity to be involved in various open days across the sites, work on the early Biennale of Sydney exhibitions at Cockatoo Island and, of course, meet lots of interesting people. Some of our highlights from our time as volunteers include:

Seafood Day at Chowder Bay

The ferries came across from Circular Quay to Clifton Gardens full of people coming to enjoy seafood from the food vans, many people had come for the first time. locals & visitors all enjoyed the surrounds on a perfect day. A busy day for Volunteers!

Music Festival at Cockatoo Island

Another great day and night was a music festival at Cockatoo Island. Music groups and solo artists performed at various spots around the Island and the machine shop was at capacity and really rocking. The Harbour Trust even built a temporary wharf to accommodate the Manly Ferries, which brought in the crowds.

Tea Rooms at Chowder Bay

This was an interesting venture: A coffee shop run by the volunteers out of the Old Sergeant Major's Cottage at Chowder Bay. Once a month, on a Sunday, we would make and serve coffee with jam and cream scones on the verandah of the heritage building as well as the grassy area our front.

Keith Napier – Visitor Services Volunteer

One of my fondest memories of volunteering for the Harbour Trust was being on duty at Cockatoo Island on a day when a daughter and mother were celebrating the latter’s 90th birthday. The daughter explained that while her mum could get around quite well, she might struggle to reach the upper island. She enquired whether the buggies were available to the public. Although they are not, we were able to assist them in this instance and, with the help of an amazing Harbour Trust ranger, gave both mother and daughter a tour of the island

The ladies were profuse in their thanks for such a wonderful experience. They again expressed immense gratitude after enjoying a café lunch and again when I encountered them at the ferry wharf. The mother said it was one of the best birthdays she had ever had. I considered it the most rewarding volunteering day I had ever had and was very grateful that the Harbour Trust has rangers of such calibre and compassion.

Peter Macinnis – North Head Sanctuary Foundation volunteer

I applied to volunteer with the Harbour Trust after attending a talk by Geoff Lambert from the North Head Sanctuary Foundation in 2012. Although I knew only a little of the Harbour Trust at the time, I was blown away by all the local flowering plants being described and, being a classically trained botanist (and zoologist), thought volunteering at North Head Sanctuary – a natural delight – seemed like a good use of my energy and capabilities.

In the years since, I’ve seen the land heal, plants and animals flourish, and wonder grow in the hearts of young visitors. Highlights include spotting tawny frogmouths and a Backobourkia (a type of spider), seeing a diamond python by the Hanging Swamp track, rescuing a trapped echidna from a drain that was at risk of flooding, saving possums from garbage bins due to go into the compactor truck, and pointing our echidnas to youngsters, including my granddaughters.

To quote Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest…

Me, poor man, my library

Was dukedom large enough...

North Head, so to speak, is my library.

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The comradery and sense of community within the volunteer team contributes to my wellbeing.

– Ian Taylor

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