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Meet the Museum's Team

The work that we get done at the Museum wouldn’t be possible without each and every one of our team members. You may be familiar with some of our front-of-house team members, one of whom we will be getting to know a bit better this week. Monika, the Museum’s Senior Retail Assistant, is a warm, friendly face who’s always up for a chat. She’s across all things retail and runs a tight ship at the Museum’s shop. You may have also seen her husband Colin who often runs the fire engine rides throughout the week. Monika has been with the Museum as an employee 10 years this year, so who better to sit down with and have this chat.

Meet Monika!

Monika in the Museum, (Photo taken Oct 2021)

Position: Senior Retail Assistant (Front of House Team) - Monika oversees our junior staff to ensure the Museum is presentable and able to open to the public every day. She manages the Museum's retail activities whilst on duty.

We asked our new Education and Digital Officer Olivia to sit down with Monika as we celebrated Monika's 10 years with the Museum as one of our team.

Your Life at the Museum

How long have you been employed at the Museum?

Almost 10 years. Probably close to 11 years because I was a volunteer first.

How did you end up at the Museum?

Colin (Monika's husband) got here as a volunteer and that’s how I heard about it. I was at that point in my life, at a crossroads where I could opt to volunteer. I thought that sounded good because I had skills I could bring in here. I have a background in office skills and all that.

What is your favourite thing about working at the Museum?

People. The people I work with, the people I see as customers.

What is something you’ve learnt while working at the Museum?

Being a team player – I think that’s an important one. Not just to be my own boss.

What is your favourite object in the Museum’s collection?

The bicycle. Probably because I didn’t actually know it was there for such a long time. I like the simplicity of it, the role it played throughout history. And that it’s out there where everyone can see it.

This is the bike Monika is referring to. It This bike has been on display in the Museum for many years but it recently was re-located to a new showcase. From the late 19th century, New South Wales Fire Brigades’ stations were equipped with bicycles. As official forms of transport, they were used for a multitude of tasks, including running messages, checking on street alarm boxes, and undertaking water hydrant inspections. A standpipe could also be attached to the centre bar. They were gradually retired from the mid-1950s, in line with the removal of street alarm boxes. The bicycle on display was found in the ceiling of the former Fire & Rescue NSW 86 Station Penrith when it was set to be demolished in 1982.

What is your favourite memory about working at the Museum?

Mark White. He kept me on my toes, in other words. He was very fair. There was something about him. He’d always have your back. You trusted him as an employer. When you work for an organisation like this you have so many special moments.

What does your day at the Museum look like?

Basically, you come in and you make sure it’s presentable. Straight away that’s my goal, to make sure the place is presentable and accessible, and all the basic stuff is done first. Every day is different because you’re working with customers and different sorts of people. It was always nice to talk to people with different stories and sharing their background with firefighting in different countries. Out of all the years, something that really hit home was that I met a man who was in 9/11. That really hit home. I’ve got my routine stuff. Basically, managing the front of house is my day, but also working in with other staff where I’m needed.

If you could change anything about the Museum what would it be?

I think everyone’s probably saying the same thing. The aircon. [Note: the Museum is located in an old heritage listed power station building so air conditioning the building is a difficult feat!]

Monika stands in the Museum shop with one of our other team members Star (c. 2019)

All About You

Where were you born?

Hohenems, Austria.

Where did you grow up?

In Picnic Point. I’d walk down the hill and we’d have the national park right there. We’d go swimming in the river and swing on the rope. We had a ball, an absolute ball.

What was your first job?

My very first job was working at Garden Island – the Navy base - amongst thousands of sailors. There were a lot of young boys there who were into that party life. You can imagine how long I’d have to travel to get there from Picnic Point, but it was worth it. We went to parties on ships; there would be international ships coming in and there were lots of Americans. They’d have Princess of Garden Island competitions. They also had fantastic botanical gardens at the top where we’d have our lunch looking over the whole island.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Art. And science - biology. I loved how things were made. You’re creating something with biology the same as you would with art. And quite often you’re using the same side of your brain.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Air hostess. In those days, the Pan Am air hostess. You saw a life of glamour.

What is your favourite time period in history?

The 70s. I grew up in that, it was a wild time, and the music was incredible and it’s still standing today. It’s actually surprising that the music has moved on through the genres and people are doing remixing.

What historical figure do you wish you could meet?

Dalai Lama. I’d ask life questions.

What is your dream job?

To be a contemporary artist.

Monika (pictured right) alongside fellow Senior Retail Assistant Star and CEO Belinda (Oct 2021)

The Big Questions

What inspires you to get out of bed every day?

I enjoy early morning walks. That gets me out of bed in the morning. And I talk to the birds. I’ve got bird feeders and I’ve got a menagerie of birds that come in my yard and I watch them play and play peek-a-boo.

What would you like to see happen in the future for the Museum?

I’d like the presence known a bit more. Just to have that larger media presence so it’s open to a wider scale.

We thank Monika for her dedication and conscientiousness over the past 11 years and we look forward to many more with her here at the Museum!


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