Community

Volunteering is a work of heart 

1 March 2024

Need help finding something in the city? Want to explore the best experiences, eateries and exhibitions? You’ll spot our visitor services volunteers by their distinctive red jackets and they’re always happy to lend a hand.  

In 2023, our 250 visitor services volunteers contributed 34,054 hours to help people navigate the city.  

So far this year, this incredible team has spent more than 5107 hours helping people plan their time in Melbourne and sharing fascinating city secrets. 

Two women with grey hair and red shirts standing at the entrance to the Melbourne Town Hall Visitor Hub
Val (right) with her colleague Wilma at the entrance to the Melbourne Visitor Hub

Meet Valerie Lloyd Smith from the Melbourne Visitor Hub 

Valerie is one of our longest-serving and most passionate volunteers, having helped residents and visitors find what they’re looking for in the City of Melbourne for 24 years.  

Valerie is based at our main Melbourne Visitor Hub in the centre of the city, at the iconic and heritage-listed Melbourne Town Hall.  

Featuring distinctive bluestone, this beautiful building features a clock tower that you can see from many places in the city – a reassuring reminder that help is only a short walk or tram ride away. Book a free tour to explore this iconic building and the site of many of Melbourne’s proudest moments.  

The City of Melbourne’s main Visitor Hub is located at Melbourne Town Hall

Valerie began her career as a PE teacher and then decided to use those skills to help people navigate our beautiful city.  

“I saw an ad and I thought ‘wow, awesome! What a good idea’ because I’m a traveller and an adventurer. You want to give back what you’ve experienced,” Valerie said. 

“When people have been kind and helpful to you while you’re travelling, you want to return the kindness and help to others.”

When Valerie first started in 1999, volunteers bought their own outfits. They could wear whatever they wanted so long as their clothing was navy and white. The City of Melbourne provided them with a scarf and a gum leaf badge to wear. 

A woman with grey hair and a red shirt welcoming people at the doorway of a tourist information centre
The Melbourne Town Hall Visitor Hub is located at 90-130 Swanston Street, on the corner of Little Collins Street

These days, our tourism volunteers wear a striking red uniform that makes them easily recognisable. 

Valerie has seen the city change extensively over the past two decades and says the service offered at our visitor centres has moved with the times, especially with advances in internet technology.  

“Always expect the unexpected. It’s about having a sense of place – you don’t have to know it all – I certainly don’t, but Melbourne is home, and I feel comfortable in it. There is always more to find out and learn about our city. You share that information with a sense of pride.”

A woman in a red shirt using a digital tablet in a tourist information centre
Val looking up some information for a customer on a tablet

Attention to detail is also a top priority to guarantee a positive experience. 

“Our job is to always help get the person to the next base. Find out what they want to do as a visitor and help them get there. You have to have your wits about you, because the last thing you want to do is give them incorrect information.”

Our volunteers come from all walks of life, although many are former teachers, like Valerie, and some have been school principals.   

They help in a variety of ways – offering directions, helping someone find the latest craze they saw on TikTok and chatting to visitors to discover what magical Melbourne moment they would love most.   

Sometimes visitors come in with very little idea of what’s on offer, so Valerie and the team ask questions to get to know them – always being efficient so people can get on with their day and make the most of their time in Melbourne.  

“People will say, I’ve got five hours, what do you suggest? I’ll chat to them about what they enjoy – even check their footwear – high heels are not good to walk to and around the Botanic Gardens! If they’re not sure, I’ll suggest the free City Circle tram and say, take it all in, if something catches your fancy jump off and explore.”

The interior of the Melbourne Visitor Hub

With search engines and company websites often out of date, Valerie and the team rely on their extensive knowledge and experience of the city to provide the right information.  

Every season they attend an events forum where they learn about everything happening in the city which means they have a unique well of knowledge to draw from and can recommend the latest and greatest experiences.  

“Sometimes people come in saying “I’m sure you won’t be able to answer this…” And I love the team effort. We’re like a brains trust and there is such a lovely repartee amongst the vollies. We can ask each other because there is wonderful team camaraderie and such lovely vibes.”

The Melbourne Visitor Hub is well-stocked with souvenirs and gifts from local makers

After 24 years, you can imagine Valerie has almost heard it all.   

Along with questions about the location of nearby bathrooms, Valerie also been asked about the location of local nudist beaches and where to find the best place to buy lawn bowls. 

“What people ask depends on the time of the year and the type of traveller or visitor you have. Backpackers want to work and travel. You get the tennis, footy and cricket crowds. Visitors or travellers might want to drive to Sydney. You get adventurous travellers. People from Europe often come in winter on cultural tours for the galleries. Someone might want to go fruit picking or see an exhibition in Ballarat or Bendigo.  

“Sometimes we get returned Aussies who say, ‘wow everything has changed!’ Or we get visiting parents in culture shock whose child has married an Aussie. It’s lovely to talk to them and reassure them.”  

A tourism information volunteer pointing a visitor in the right direction
Val points a visitor in the right direction

The volunteers are all-rounders, offering tourism advice, a kind ear, empathy and support – going the extra mile for everyone spending time in Melbourne.   

“We had a gentleman who walked out of a dentist after a procedure and couldn’t find his car. We asked him questions. What do you last remember? He said, trees! We looked at street view and Google together, and we found his car by re-tracing his steps.” 

Our visitor centres are a refuge in a busy city. Valerie and the team approach every question with curiosity and empathy, working together to help people cope in difficult circumstances.  

Sometimes people will come in crying because they are lost or can’t find a service they need, and Valerie or one of the team will do what they can to help, drawing on the experienced and trained supervising staff to cover all bases. 

Volunteering for the City of Melbourne can help you spend more time in your community, meet new people and gain new skills and experience. Valerie urges anyone interested to get involved.  

“It is fun, fascinating and rewarding. And when we see councillors, or the Lord Mayor comes in or buys something from the gift shop, it really makes you feel valued and part of a team.”

Two women in red shirts talking together in a tourist information centre
Val is used to answering curly questions from visitors

As an expert and Melbourne devotee, Valerie doesn’t hesitate when describing her own ideal time in the city. 

“I love the Melbourne Theatre Company, having a drink beforehand and going to a play. I love the vibe and the buzz of Melbourne in January, walking over the bridge and hearing the tennis. And the new Wurrdha Marra Indigenous Gallery at NGV Australia, and the list goes on…” 

Where to find help in Melbourne 

Our friendly volunteers are here to help and share their extensive local knowledge. Stop by one of our visitor centres or look for one of our city ambassadors for advice on things to do, places to eat, or the best attractions to visit. 

Melbourne Visitor Hub

The friendly team at the Melbourne Visitor Hub, located in the centre of the city at Melbourne Town Hall, can help you plan your time in Melbourne and share the city’s secrets with you.  

Pick up free maps including our popular 12 city walks i.e. street art, arcades and laneways, use the free Wi-Fi and stock up on locally sourced gifts for your loved ones. 

Location

Melbourne Town Hall, 90-130 Swanston Street (Corner Little Collins and Swanston streets), Melbourne. 

Opening hours

Open daily from 9am to 5pm. 

Closed Christmas Day. 

A volunteer chats to a customer at Melbourne Visitor Hub
A volunteer chats to a customer at Melbourne Visitor hub

Melbourne Visitor Booth  

This free information service is located in the heart of the city’s retail centre in the iconic Bourke Street Mall.  

Our friendly team provide maps, information on shopping and attractions, and how to use public transport to get around the city quickly and easily.  

Location

Bourke Street Mall (between Swanston and Elizabeth streets). 

Opening hours 

Open daily from 10am to 5pm. 

Closed Christmas Day. 

The Melbourne Visitor Booth in Bourke Street Mall
Head to Bourke Street Mall to visit the Melbourne Visitor Booth

Fitzroy Gardens Visitor Centre  

Set in the lush, heritage-listed Fitzroy Gardens, this visitor centre is the starting point to explore the beautiful leafy surrounds, gorgeous floral displays and towering elm trees.  

Speak to the friendly team about the attractions in the gardens and get their tips for the best local spots to visit.  

Sit back, relax and admire the view at KereKere Green Cafe in the visitor centre where you can enjoy ethically sourced coffee and nibbles, or browse the gift shop for unique gifts to spoil your loved ones. 

Location 

Fitzroy Gardens, Wellington Parade, East Melbourne. 

Opening hours 

Open daily from 9am to 4pm. 

Closed Christmas Day. 

The Fitzroy Gardens Visitor Centre
The Fitzroy Gardens Visitor Centre is located in a leafy setting

City Ambassadors  

Get personal assistance from friendly City Ambassadors around Swanston Street, Federation Square and the bustling Queen Victoria Market.   

Our ambassadors are equipped with extensive local knowledge that they are eager to share and they’re easy to spot in their distinct red uniforms.  

You’re never too far away from helpful, local advice including directions, public transport enquiries and the latest and greatest events.  They’ll also help you find your way around the market and find the most delicious eats to sample. 

Location 

You’ll see our ambassadors along Swanston Street and Federation Square and at the main entry points to the Queen Victoria Market. 

Operating hours 

Swanston Street and Federation Square: Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 11.30am to 3pm. 

Queen Victoria Market: Fridays 10am to 1pm and Saturday to Sunday 10am to 3pm. 

A tourist information volunteer chatting to a young couple while a tram passes by
Look out for our City Ambassadors dotted around the city

Melbourne Greeter Service 

Discover what locals love about Melbourne with a free two-to-four-hour walking orientation of the city, conducted by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteer.  

Volunteers can guide groups of up to four people – bring your friends and explore the city together. 

Location 

Orientations in English depart daily at 10am from the Melbourne Visitor Hub at Town Hall (Swanston Street, corner of Little Collins Street). Orientations are also available on other days in other languages including French, German, Indonesian, Italian and Mandarin. 

Bookings are essential

A tourist information volunteer laughing with a young couple
A volunteer guide sharing a laugh with city visitors

Volunteer with the City of Melbourne 

We engage more than 800 volunteers in different roles and programs across the City of Melbourne, and recognise the unique skills, strengths, experiences and passion volunteers bring to our organisation.  

Volunteers play a vital role in the City of Melbourne’s tourism services. Our volunteers’ knowledge of the city and regional Victoria adds to Melbourne’s reputation as a friendly, welcoming and culturally vibrant city.  

Email us to receive an alert for the next recruitment intake. 

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