Volunteer stories: meet Adiba Rahman

Adiba Rahman has always loved heritage and architecture, and she says there’s one room in particular at Old Government House that has captured her imagination. To mark National Volunteering Week, we talked to Adiba about her experience volunteering with the National Trust (NSW).

You recently became a volunteer this year – why did you decide to volunteer at Old Government House?

I’m a heritage consultant both by profession and passion, so I strive to enhance community appreciation of cultural values. I moved to Australia in 2014 from Bangladesh, and I really believe that awareness at a grassroots level is vital for caring for heritage. Volunteering at the National Trust (NSW) felt like the perfect way to play my part in the community here and enhance heritage awareness. Not only that, I’m also learning so much about the history of Old Government House. I’m literally learning something new every day!

What’s the best part so far of being on the team?

I enjoy picking up bits and pieces of information from each of the different volunteers because we all have our own way of storytelling. Sometimes even visitors will come in and give me recommendations for books, so the experience is really quenching my thirst for history.

Do you have a favourite room at Old Government House yet?

The kitchen. Even though every room in Old Government House is interesting, I like to dwell more in the back of the house where daily activities were carried out. The kitchen was behind the scenes of a very grand life, and every object is intriguing. For example, at a time when there wasn’t electricity, they relied on limited candlelight from candles made of tallow (animal fat), or the meat safe ‘food cupboard,’ which is the equivalent of today’s fridge. Today we’re constantly outstripped by technology, but back then they had to use a manual iron and butter churner. I find myself thinking about the hustle and bustle of those days – pressing linen and preparing food, and doing everything in the one space. The working conditions must have been very difficult, and women worked hard, but they kept this place running.

Adiba Rahman in the historic kitchen at Old Government House.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of volunteering?

One of my favourite quotes is from the inspirational and humble Mahatma Gandhi, who said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. And that is volunteering. All you have to do is invest a little time from your end, and it has the power to make a difference to somebody you may not know. It doesn’t matter what skills you may or may not have, whatever you have to offer might be helpful and needed. At the end of the day, if it brings you joy, then why not?

The National Trust (NSW) relies on a state-wide network of volunteers that provide visitors with a rich and meaningful heritage experience at our many houses, gardens and galleries. If you’re interested in volunteering at the National Trust (NSW) please get in touch.

Situated on the traditional lands of the Burramatta Darug, World Heritage listed Old Government House is the oldest surviving public building in Australia.

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NSW Editor

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