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Celebrating National Volunteer Week – In Conversation with Volunteer Rema O’Neill

In celebration of National Volunteer Week 2017, we talk to Rema about why volunteering is important to her, and what extra skills she’s learnt along the way as a volunteer.

What motivates you most to volunteer as a social history tour guide at the Convent?

I like the history. My interest in it and also Melbourne’s rich history grows all the time. I find that the history of the plight of women and the Good Shepherd Sisters is a fascinating part of the history of Melbourne.

The history of the Wurundjeri people and this site is so important.

People on the tours are always telling their own stories and responding to the site in different ways. Often tour participants are amazed because they didn’t know how large, interesting and beautiful the place is.

Your volunteer role sees you teaching others about the Convent’s history, but what has volunteering taught you?

I also didn’t know much about the site when I first came here, and I haven’t stopped learning since the initial training.

Volunteering is a great way to connect with the site.

In my case I find it much easier now to speak in front of large groups and to interact with groups.

What skills and knowledge are able to share through volunteering?

I guess every time I take a new tour guide on the tour, I’m sharing my knowledge of the site which also has a particular architectural focus sometimes.

What would you say to others thinking about volunteering – either at the Convent or elsewhere?

You don’t really know what the experience will open up for you until you do it. Generally, you will learn new skills.

At the least you will meet lots of lovely people.

The Abbotsford Convent Foundation sincerely thanks all those who volunteer at the Convent.

If you’re interested in volunteering as a tour guide at the Convent, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact our team at:

Social history tours take place at the Abbotsford Convent every Sunday at 2pm – a great way to learn about the Convent’s history as a meeting point for the Kulin Nation, to its days as a former monastic Convent, through to the Convent’s current-day arts, culture and education precinct.