The value of volunteers

Mature age volunteers are the ‘lifeblood’ of the museum. Their experience and passion are what our visitors enjoy. Image: ANMM.

Mature age volunteers are the ‘lifeblood’ of the museum. Their experience and passion are what our visitors enjoy. Image: ANMM.

Did you know that here at the museum we have over 1200 volunteers? Some 450 regularly volunteer onsite.

Volunteers are extremely important to our visitor experiences and a big part of our 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.

Why do museums have volunteers?

They help bring the museum to life and consistently add vitality to your visit. We know this from feedback – just reading the reviews related to volunteer guides on TripAdvisor, you get the sense straight away that they really make a difference to all types of visitors. Volunteers work across the museum – in a diverse range of areas. While many volunteers are visitor facing, there are also many volunteers who work in the ‘back of house’ helping, researching and supporting numerous and varied museum functions.

A recent Facebook review. Image: ANMM.

A recent Facebook review. Image: ANMM.

Why are our volunteers different?

Here at the museum we offer unique activities in a large outdoor precinct with many tall ships and vessels to see (including HMB Endeavour, HMAS Vampire, HMAS Onslow and HMAS Advance). Many of our volunteers have served in the Royal Australian Navy or have a connection to Australia’s maritime heritage through family history. Others are enthusiastic about sailing, ships and community. This is what makes our volunteers so different: they have a personal connection to the items in our collection as well as a passion for all things maritime.

Irrespective of their demographic – student, retiree, male, female, working or not, multi-lingual or English only – our museum wouldn’t be what it is today without our volunteers. While most of our volunteers are retired or working part time, in line with our growing audience of international visitors, we have been actively recruiting volunteers who are multi-lingual (some of whom are tertiary students).

Volunteer training for our Cazneaux exhibition, with Senior Curator Daina Fletcher. Image: Deanna Varga / ANMM.

Volunteer training for our Cazneaux exhibition, with Senior Curator Daina Fletcher. Image: Deanna Varga / ANMM.

In April 2016 we held the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival, attracting 16,000 people over three days, and concurrently a major incentive group called Nu Skin from Greater China (4,000 delegates). Without the diversity, enthusiasm and passion of our volunteers these two events wouldn’t have been as vibrant.

How are our volunteers changing?

The stereotype of a volunteer is a mature-aged retiree. It’s not surprising and this is certainly a majority of our volunteers. We are looking at ways to keep the mature volunteers engaged and interested in continuing to volunteer with us. It’s very flattering when our mature-aged volunteers refer their friends to volunteer at the museum because they enjoy their experience so much.

With the increase in Chinese visitors, and our expanding programs to include immersive technology, we have been able to attract younger volunteers as well as multi-lingual volunteers. But this also changes the group’s dynamic and the way we need to engage with them.The younger volunteers are often (but not always) students looking for full-time work, in search of work experience in Australia or volunteering part-time while studying. They have very different and varied objectives for volunteering compared with our mature age volunteers.

We love having new people come and join our volunteering pool. In fact, you can contact us today for more on volunteering at the museum. For information on volunteering generally, visit The Centre for Volunteering. You can also search for volunteering opportunities through Go Volunteer and Volunteering Australia.

— Deanna Varga, Assistant Director Commercial & Visitor Services

Hear from three of our volunteers and our Director, Kevin Sumption, about the value of volunteers over on Radio National.

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