Max defies the odds

Max Bracher has been volunteering for Puffing Billy for over eight years. 181069_01 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Kyra Gillespie

According to 2014 ABS data, of all Australians under 75 years of age, those in the 18 to 24 age group are the least likely to give up their time to volunteer.

While this may not come as a huge surprise, it is a statistic that young Puffing Billy Railway volunteer, Max Bracher is determined to change.

The 23-year-old has been volunteering at the Railway for over eight years.

During this time he has completed his VCE, undertaken an Architecture Degree at university, and been diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic, but has always found time to volunteer at Puffing Billy.

“Volunteering at Puffing Billy has been an invaluable experience, creating life skills that I would not have gained elsewhere,” he said.

“I was the creative, artistic kid in a family of sports fanatics! While I wasn’t a fan of weekend sport, I loved the camaraderie and social aspects that went with it.

“One day while visiting Puffing Billy, I noticed that there were a lot of young volunteers and the idea of volunteering at such an iconic attraction appealed to me. I started as a volunteer two weeks later.”

The upcoming architect and avid photographer said the experience shaped him for the better.

“I have made lifelong friendships with people of all ages at Puffing Billy. It’s a very social place to work, with a fantastic opportunity to meet volunteers and passengers from all around the world. It’s really rewarding to see the excitement on their faces and know that I get to be part of their memorable experience.”

“Volunteering also helped me to build my confidence as a teenager. I was interacting with people all day, playing my role as a conductor, and in more recent years, taking up positions on various Railway Committees.

“These experiences opened doors for me when I was applying for jobs and transitioning from high school to university.”

Max said his experience as a volunteer has also given him a leg-up in his studies at The University of Melbourne.

“Being an architecture student, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to use my knowledge of historical architecture on the Railway’s Heritage Advisory Committee. This allowed me to work with architects and heritage consultants on a professinal level to assist the railway with preserving its heritage identity.

“It has been an incredible learning and networking opportunity and was extremely helpful when it came to applying for graduate jobs. Since then, I have gained employment with a heritage architect.

“From a young age, volunteering opened my mind to new opportunities, gave me a social outlet, and fuelled my interest in heritage architecture during university. I can’t recommend volunteering enough and encourage all young people to give it a go. You never know where it might lead you!”

Puffing Billy Railway currently has 53 volunteers aged between 18 to 24 participating in over 30 different volunteer roles.

Anyone over the age of 18 can become a volunteer at Puffing Billy.

To find out more, email the Volunteer Services Team at or call 9757 0700.

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