Portrait of young woman against background of foliage
Olivia Muscat, Volunteer Storyteller

It’s National Volunteer Week, so we’re celebrating all the dedicated, talented and inspiring people who volunteer with State Library Victoria, and we want you to meet some of them! First cab off the rank is Olivia Muscat, writer, theatre critic, disability advocate, educator, 2020 recipient of the Lesley Hall scholarship and Family Programs volunteer!

‘I volunteer with Family Programs, assisting with Storytime, Baby bounce and all the toddler and baby programs. It’s great fun – all the kids love it. Everyone’s singing and getting involved, and listening really intently when a story is read. They all play with the dress ups and have a great time; it’s just so much fun.

‘I started at the beginning of the year when the Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter opened up. I was looking for volunteer opportunities and saw the advertisement by chance. I thought it sounded like the perfect opportunity because I love the Library to start with and spend a lot of time here; and I love children’s entertainment and children’s books and children’s songs, and working with kids. My ultimate life goal has always been to be on Play School, so it seemed like the next best thing.

‘I used to volunteer at the Insight Education Centre for the Blind and Vision Impaired – which no longer exists – running a drama program for the kids there. I also volunteer with a writers group for people who want to write young adult fiction but might not have access to expensive author workshops.

I write fiction, memoir, and personal essays, one of which appears in the Meet me at the intersection anthology. I’ve done theatre criticism, reviewing audio-described theatre, which is when they have people at the back of the audience, in a secret booth, describing what’s happening visually on stage for people who are blind or have low vision. And I have headphones in, listening to that. I’ve reviewed a few plays and even a dance performance like that. It’s something I’m really interested in and passionate about.

‘On top of all this, I also do some freelance tutoring of braille and a bit of access consultancy – I worked with the National Gallery developing a holiday program for kids who are blind and have low vision, talking about the best way to engage them with visual art. And one day a week I work at a program for blind and vision impaired kids who are in mainstream school – they come to us for what’s called the ‘expanded core curriculum’, which is all the extra stuff they need to learn, like braille and braille music or assistive technology. I also do some drama stuff there, which includes communication and social skills and how to interact with people and be spontaneous, all that sort of thing. I’m also in a choir because singing is my first love.

‘I value volunteering as an experience for myself, which sounds very selfish, but it’s true. I think it gives you something that you can’t get from working somewhere. It’s totally different and I approach it in a different way. But also it gives me the opportunity to just give something back to people who need something, or even just want a particular experience. I’m glad to be able to help facilitate it in some small way, even if it’s just giving a stamp to a child at the end of Storytime and telling them how wonderful their craft creation is.’

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