Conversations with Convent Volunteers

    This National Volunteer Week, we’re celebrating the many friendly faces whose dedicated work helps the Convent thrive. Over the last year, 97 volunteers generously donated 2,138 hours to the Convent. They helped keep our gardens beautiful, welcomed music-lovers at our Convent Live events, answered visitor questions in our c3 Contemporary Art Space, and told the story of the Convent’s past on our Social History Tours.

    We chatted with three of the Convent’s volunteers to find out why they choose to volunteer, what they gain from the experience, and some favourite moments at the Convent.

    Rose Hartley, Garden Volunteer, 7 weeks 

    What was your initial motivation for volunteering? 

    I was incredibly interested in learning about horticulture and the scientific names of different plants and thought the gardening program at the Abbotsford Convent was the perfect place to do that. Also, any contact with nature profoundly benefits your psychological and physical wellbeing. I always feel more balanced and grounded after gardening, which speaks to the power of the volunteer program at Abbotsford Convent.

    What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the Convent?

    I love talking to Simon, the head gardener, about the wonderful things that our natural world can do. Each week I’m learning something new about the garden. Just last week I was introduced to this amazing concept called ‘pleaching’ where, if the cambium of a tree trunk or branch of the same species rubs against another, they can affix themselves to each other to form this symbiotic relationship where they can then feed and look after one another. Mind blown. Oh and coffee and cake on Wednesday morning, of course.

    Has volunteering helped create a sense of community for you?

    Definitely – being a part of such a lovely group of people in such a beautiful place is so special. The modern world is becoming increasingly lonely, ever more obsessed with power and status, and more disconnected from the natural world than ever before. Being with a group of people with such varied histories and backgrounds is always so enriching and fulfilling. The age of technology will never be able to replace the soothing, restorative, and creativity-enhancing benefits of being amongst nature and being with others.


    George Willox, Event Volunteer, 4 years

    What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the Convent?

    I really enjoy the sense of being part of a dedicated and creative community, along with the opportunity to meet and talk with a diverse range of people, whether it be staff, other volunteers, or visitors.  It is always a pleasure to be involved in things at the Convent, no matter how mundane or challenging. I continue to learn new things and develop new skills (such as how to work with young children after a career as a secondary teacher).

    Do you have a favourite memory from your time volunteering here?

    I have enjoyed everything I have been involved in at the Convent, but if I had to pick something I would say hearing some wonderful recitals when ushering in the Oratory.

    What's the biggest perk of being a volunteer?

    For me this would be the satisfaction of knowing that I have done my bit towards helping the Convent to survive and grow.  Of course the chance to see shows and hear recitals when volunteering, and invitations to functions and events are very nice as well.


    Mary Peacock, Tour Volunteer, 6 years 

    What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the Convent?

    A sense of belonging to the Convent community and sharing my love for the place.

    Do you have a favourite memory from your time volunteering here?

    Taking a group of Japanese men and women to the Ink and Spindle studio in Sacred Heart and observing the artists as they hand printed a screen print of native flora.

    As a tour guide, you regularly traverse the ins and outs of the Convent’s buildings and grounds. Do you have a favourite place at the Convent?

    There’s a little one-storey building tacked on the side of the infirmary with the small tree nearby that has the most prolific, exquisite blossoms in Spring.


    If you interested in getting involved as a volunteer at the Convent, check out our volunteers page for more information.