Cooma Cottage stands proudly just outside Yass and has long been the destination of many weekend visitors and history buffs alike. This has only been made possible by the continuous efforts of many volunteers over the years, and the 2020 NSW National Trust State Volunteering Awards has recognised the Yass volunteers this week.

The Southern Inland ceremony held on Thursday, October 8th via Zoom honoured the volunteers of Cooma Cottage with an Award of Recognition. The National Trust (NSW) which oversees Cooma Cottage is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and nominated the volunteers to thank them for their efforts.

“It was our way of acknowledging a volunteer team who have kept this property operating by providing visitors an insight into the history of Cooma Cottage and the legacy of Hamilton Hume,” stated The National Trust of Australia Volunteer Coordinator Melissa Green.

Hamilton Hume was the first Australian-born explorer and bought the 100-acre grounds in which the colonial bungalow sits. He purchased the property along with the cottage in 1840 and lived out the rest of his days until 1873. Henry O’Brien originally built it, and his younger brother Cornelius and Hume spent 20 years adding extensions. It stands as a fine testament to the way pioneers in Australia constructed and lived.

The grounds are expansive, which makes it an excellent place for a picnic and the gardens can be hired for events such as weddings, photoshoots, or tours. While this makes it a beautiful spot perfect for tourists, it also means a lot of work for the people who volunteer to keep the cottage open for the public.

“The Cooma Cottage volunteers are a team of passionate individuals who take on roles such as tour guiding; serving in the gift shop; taking care of the collection items and looking after the gardens. They are dedicated to the property and want to share with visitors their passion and love of the property and its history,” Ms Green added.

Cooma Cottage Volunteers recognised by The National Trust – L-R Lyn Dowrick, Barbara Foster, Ruvae Bush,  and Rosalie Bush 

Currently, Cooma Cottage has a volunteer farmland manager Chris Broers and four volunteers for events with two more waiting to be trained. Yass volunteer spokesperson Barbara Foster said they would like to have as many volunteers as possible especially when the cottage reopens to the public which is currently closed due to COVID-19.

“The more people interested in maintaining Cooma Cottage and the history and imparting that to the public, the better,” said Ms Foster.

In the past, Ms Foster said they had a roster system with 16-17 volunteers, and that involved some of them only working once a month. She suggested this was an ideal number as it allowed people to help as much as they wanted but also have free time. The goal is to get the number of volunteers closer to this number.

There is a range of things that you can become involved in at Cooma Cottage, from guiding tourists around the grounds and explaining the history of the site, to more behind the scenes jobs such as gardening or setting up for events.

With September seeing the beginning of spring and the weather warming up quickly, the garden currently only has two people tending it, which leads to a lot of work.

“There is something for everyone—we open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday under normal circumstance. Bus groups come in upwards of 40 people. There is a lot of set up involved for morning tea, lunch and guides to show people around,” said Ms Foster.

Ms Foster was happy for the recognition and wanted to stress that it is a team effort. Ms Foster has a background in historical research, property styling and interior design, so working as a volunteer at Cooma Cottage for the past six years has been the perfect fit.

“This place is so enjoyable that when you come out here, you don’t want to leave. The landscape is gorgeous. When volunteers start coming here, they enjoy it so much themselves that visitors sense that and enjoy it too.”

If you would like to volunteer to help at Cooma Cottage, you can contact them at 02 6226 1470. Alternatively, you can contact The National Trust (NSW). All volunteers are welcome and very much appreciated.