Volunteer Stories

Buda thanks all our past and present volunteers so much for all their hard work and help. Without their  incredible support we could not provide the many services that are so valued by our visitors.

During National Volunteer Week 2021 (17-23 May)  Buda honoured some of our most dedicated and long-serving volunteers.

Here are their stories.

Margaret Callister has been with us for over twenty years now as a Tour Guide leader, trainer and educator – We are pleased to share her story with you.
It gives me great delight and satisfaction to volunteer at Buda.
When I began there in 2000 I knew that it would be an interesting, exciting and occasionally challenging place to work so I was grateful for the opportunity presented to me. I had been familiar with Buda for some time, attracted by its history, the house, the garden and the family that had lived in this lovely place. Becoming a tour guide enabled me to discover and learn a great deal more and appreciate the historic and artistic values of Buda.
Over the years I have never ceased to enjoy sharing stories with visitors and especially with the other tour guides who make it such a pleasure to ‘work’ together.
My favourite places in the house and garden change according to the weather and my particular interest at the time. However, to sit under the purple-leafed prunus close to the aviary is always special.
I have remained at Buda because I love it and because it is constantly changing. The house, the garden, the caring people who work here, the knowledge we gain are all part of a treasure.
Steve Munday is another dedicated and long-serving volunteer, who commenced work in the Buda garden in 2002. Steve shares his story here with us.
I started working in the Buda garden doing community service in 2002. I enjoyed it so much that when the initial term finished, I continued to come in to work, and have been there ever since.
I enjoy the history at Buda and can easily relate to the Leviny family as I grew up with a lot of creativity around me.
My mother was a dressmaker who made wedding gowns and my father was an artist and also made costumes for the theatre, so I was surrounded by creativity which sparked a strong interest in art and history.
I really enjoy gardening and when I talk to friends about Buda I say ‘where else can you work in a really nice garden in the middle of Castlemaine that has 160 years of history associated with it?’. It is quite unique, very different from say the botanical gardens, and I like the casual, relaxed and semi-wild feel of the garden – there is nowhere else like it.
A few years I also worked on a project in the house doing computer data entry from the cataloguing worksheets relating to the house collection. This was fascinating and gave me other insights into the Leviny family, as well as the opportunity have a closer look at some the objects, which I found very interesting.
The social aspect of working at Buda is most enjoyable. Meeting people, mostly new volunteers, makes it more interesting and is a very important part of the place I think. I don’t get out to meet new people a lot and Buda gives me that opportunity.
Diane Linton who has been working with us on and off for close on thirty years, mostly in collections management. Here is Diane’s story:
I began as a receptionist at Buda in 1984, and also did the house cleaning for a while. From 1988 to 1991 I was part of the cataloguing team trained by a Museums Victoria representative. Between 1991 and 2001 I spent some time volunteering in the Historical Museum at the Castlemaine Art Gallery, returning to Buda after the financial crisis in 2001 to work on sorting out many of the irregularities in the collections catalogue.
An interest in all things historical stemmed from my teenage years, and I was drawn to Buda through a sense of affinity with the Leviny sisters and their engagement with the world of crafts. One of my favourite spots within the house is the Small Sitting Room because it is an intimate space and I can visualise the sisters working in there on cold winter days writing letters and sewing.
I have built many skills and considerable expertise working with the collection at Buda over the years and gain much satisfaction from the knowledge that I can contribute something of value to the preservation of our history. Also, knowing that with my specialised skills – which are not so readily available in a volunteer without considerable training and experience – I can support the work of the Curator in upholding the heritage values of Buda’s assets and assist in a very practical way with meeting our obligation to preserve the Leviny Legacy for future generations.
Buda represents life in a very different world to the one in which we find ourselves today. It is important to demonstrate that daily life used to be on a more basic plane. We should never lose sight of the past as it makes us what we are.
(L-R Pat Grumont and Kerry Anderson)
Kerry Anderson has been a Tour Guide for many years and also served on the Committee of Management. Kerry shares some of her thoughts and memories with us here:
It was in early 2001 when I was invited to do a tour guide course led by the late Mary Thompson. She was so passionate about Buda that it was quite infectious! It was also just after I organised the millennium ball in the old market building as a fundraiser for Mt Alexander Hospital (now Castlemaine Health) so I was really in historic mode at that time.
I’ve always loved history and heritage buildings, it reminded me of fond times spent in my grandparent’s farmhouse as a child. Merlyn Pritchard, whom I worked with previously, was on the Buda Committee and asked if I was interested. It was the perfect time as I’d just started working for myself and was more flexible.

What I really enjoy is spending time in a beautiful, relaxing environment, learning so much social history from the diaries and letters of the family, and showing people around. We meet so many lovely people visiting Buda and they are just so interested in what we have to share with them.

There are lots of nooks away from the main rooms that I love exploring but over the years I have repeatedly found myself drawn to the western exterior of the house. I love the lace work and tiles adorning a small section of veranda outside ‘mother’s’ bedroom. Sheltered by the Bunya Pine it seems quite special. The symmetrical lines of the house draw your eye back down into the southern part of the garden particularly by the big trees lining the fence line. It’s a lovely place to take photographs.
Thanks to Buda I have a much wider knowledge of local and world history and have had the privilege of showing a number of dignitaries around Buda. One was the Governor General of Victoria and his wife who promptly reciprocated with an invitation to Government House. It was extra special to welcome at least two Hungarian Ambassadors and some members of the Hungarian parliament to Buda over the past two decades. I’ve even been to Melbourne to meet with some Hungarian groups who are just so warm and welcoming. They love Buda! So many opportunities and friendships have resulted from just a few hours of volunteering from time to time.
Buda is my happy place, somewhere that I can take a break from my busy life and just enjoy showing people around, or totally alone watering in summer. As a volunteer I can get to go parts of the house that aren’t open to the public and see things not on display. Helping out at events is also fun. It’s a team effort and so much easier if we all pitch in. I know that when Buda is doing well, our whole community is benefiting.

(L-R Andrea McKey and Claire Thomas)

Claire Thomas shares her story…
I started volunteering at Buda in 2001. After retiring from business I was looking for something to do. I wanted an outlet for meeting people, love old homes and enjoy gardening, so Buda filled all these passions.
Buda’s history is special. As a ‘crafty’ person I am in awe of the talents of the Leviny daughters and even after 20 years I am still amazed at what is still being discovered about the family.
Most of my time is spent in Reception, meeting and greeting visitors. Sharing my knowledge of the Leviny family with everyone is a privilege. I also enjoy helping in the Garden Room on special occasions.
Over the years, committee, staff and volunteers have changed but each and every person in their own way, contributes to the smooth running of Buda and all have Buda’s best interests at heart.
If I stay healthy and can contribute in my way I would love to continue coming to Buda as everyone is so friendly and it just feels like an extended family home.
Chris Wheat has been with us since 2002 as a Tour Guide, and shares his story here with us.
I became involved with Buda as a Tour Guide around 2002 after finishing my guide training with Mary Thompson. What drew me to the place was possibly a bit of nosiness initially. Maybe the small detective work which the whole guiding process entails when some curious fact reveals itself, was also part of this.
It is a rare privilege to enter the lives of a family most of whom were alive long before I was. It was also the mirror they offer us to the story of Australia. Heaps of little things fascinated me with the Leviny family: the attachment the girls had to the natural world; their enthusiastic embracing of the Arts and Craft spirit revealed in objects which pop up all over the house; their interest in the garden; the influence their parents had on them. Ernest’s energetic life and intellect. And so on.

I love having the chance to reveal the story of Buda and the Levinys to people I don’t know and to encourage their curiosity, amusement and wonderment at lives so different yet so similar to our own.

Of all my favourite spaces at Buda, the eastern end of the Front Gallery where the barometer hangs is special. A photo exists of Ernest standing alone at the grand front entry of the house wearing his embroidered smoking cap. This photo also manages to capture the barometer hanging on the wall inside the Front Gallery. It still hangs there in the same spot, as it has for over a hundred years, forecasting the day’s weather.
Why I have stayed as a volunteer at Buda is because I believe it is vital that we preserve the Australian past, simply because an experience of the past as revealed through one Australian family deepens our understanding of our own present. It makes us a little more stoic when we discover how other generations have coped with their challenges.
In many ways the Levinys lived privileged lives but they too experienced illness, disagreements, catastrophes, failures and disappointments, as well as joy, laughter, good fortune and peace. It is a help to us all to know that we are not alone, that the past is always embedded in our present and acts as a kind of consolation and lesson book. It is also great to know that your efforts as a Tour Guide may impart some understanding to visitors when they experience what it was once like to live in this ‘other’ Australia.
I think almost the best thing of all is when you push open the front gate and are confronted with the absolute beauty of Buda. She is now very well cared for, restored, repaired and gardened and she opens her arms to visitors in all her unique little details.
The family would surely be pleased with Hilda’s amazing decision to give it all to Castlemaine and the nation.