Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

SHMA recognises value of volunteers &

Living History: Sovereign Hill’s oldest volunteer Bill Llewellyn, 91, and youngest Abigail Holmes, 2, take a break in the main street during National Volunteers Week. Picture: Kate Healy.

Michelle Smith, Volunteers are vital to Sovereign Hill, who say thanks during National Volunteer Week, The Courier, 22 May 2019

And their roles are as diverse as their ages.

Abigail Holmes, 2, is the park’s youngest volunteer and this week, to mark National Volunteer Week, she met up with the park’s oldest volunteer Bill Llewellyn, 91.

Abigail has been a part of the Sovereign Hill volunteer roster with her mum Kirralee since she was nine months old.

“We started together in December 2017. When we began it was very easy; she was tiny and she fell asleep in my arms, but now she likes to be a bit more in the spotlight,” Ms Holmes said.

“Our volunteers are such a valuable part of our Sovereign Hill team. during National Volunteer Week Sovereign Hill will celebrate and thank our volunteers for their excellent contribution to the visitor experience and for their outstanding support of our organisation.”
Sovereign Hill chief executive Sara Quon

Toddling along Main Street, Abigail is the centre of attention with tourists stopping to chat, look at her doll and take pictures of her in her period costume. Abigail’s favourite activity though is visiting the horses and animals.

“I love that I’m exposing Abigail to people and cultures,” Ms Holmes said. “She interacts with people who speak different languages and somehow seems to understand. We love sharing a small bit of history here and showing pride in our town.”

Interaction with visitors from far and wide is what keeps Mr Llewellyn donning his costume and coming to Sovereign Hill a few times a month.

It’s something he’s been doing for 29 years and now “it’s my relaxation to come up here”.

“People ask if I live here,” he laughed. “So we must be doing something right … making the place look as if it’s lived in.”

Mr Llewellyn dips in to his bag of hand-carved wooden toys to intrigue the children who come to Sovereign Hill. He whittles them himself at night, and asks young visitors what they do of an evening.

“I like to challenge them to make them think,” he said.

“Usually they say ‘I watch TV’, so I ask ‘what’s TV?’. They’ll say it’s a box with pictures … or I ask them how they got here. They’ll answer ‘on a bus’ so I ask ‘what’s a bus?”. They’ll say ‘it’s a coach’, and I ask ‘how many horses were pulling it?’ which makes them laugh but it brings home the fact that things have changed, and I have been around a long time to see a lot of it.”

Mr Llewellyn was at Sovereign Hill on the day it opened, and as a child used to play where the main street now runs.

But Sovereign Hill is not Mr Llewellyn’s only volunteer role – he’s given a lifetime of service to others and the community and in 2014 was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his service to the community of Ballarat.

Mr Llewellyn is a past president of the Ballarat East Rotary Club; former president, district governor and life member of the YMCA’s Men’s Club; and former assistant area commissioner of Scouts Australia. He was named Volunteer of the Year in 2012 by Museums Australia, and received the Scouting Australia medal of merit in 1993. He and his wife Nance were also foundation members of the Gold Museum.

Many hats: Bill Llewellyn in one of his other volunteer roles, pictured here with Margaret Robinson as organiser of Ballarat’s Biggest Book Bonanza. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Sovereign Hill’s volunteers help activate more than 30 sites within the museum with hands-on activities including horse care, flag making, scrimshaw, cooking and sewing. The longest serving volunteer recently clocked up 38 years of service.

“Our volunteer program is a great opportunity for volunteers to develop their skills and make new friends as they become part of our community, working to interpret the history of Sovereign Hill to people from all over the world,” said Sovereign Hill volunteer manager Kelly Bevan.

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