INSIDE: NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK SPECIAL FEATURE
GROWING up in Mumbai, Ruby Eagle never learned to swim.
She moved to Australia in 1971 at age 26 and although she dove into the Aussie culture, she continued to keep both feet firmly on the ground.
So when Ruby began volunteering at AQWA more than 20 years ago, she gained her first glimpse of the many splendours that lay beneath the water.
“The aquarium was a way of me being able to see underwater, otherwise I would never have known what was there and I think that's what AQWA is all about,” Ruby said.
“The man who built it did so because his son couldn't dive and he thought there would be a lot of people in the world who would not experience this underwater world unless he built it – and I am one of those people.”
The 73-year-old retired teacher became a volunteer to marvel at the beauty and wonder of the aquarium but also to fill a void.
Having raised two daughters and caring for her sick mother for several years, she needed a new purpose and connection.
“AQWA is full of life and everyone is happy here,” Ruby said.
“The staff are very dedicated people and it's nice chatting and learning – it keeps the mind active as I get older and keeps me busy and out of mischief.”
But the greatest joy Ruby gains from the task is the chance to give back to the community.
“I came to Australia all those years ago and people have welcomed me and been so kind,” she said. “I have had such a good life here in comparison to what I would have had in India and I want to give back to Australia what I have gotten from it.” A well-loved fixture of the aquarium, Ruby has earned respect and adoration from visitors and staff. Every week she will “Give a little. Change a lot”. She feeds marine life in the touch pool, introduces people to creatures in the tanks and helps children make badges. Education/dive coordinator Courtney Wood said Ruby was
“I have had such a good life here in comparison to what I would have had in India and I want to give back to Australia what I have gotten from it.”
selfless, warm and loved by all.
“Ruby has that different approach: a lot of us here are scientists, so when we give people information about ocean conservation and marine protected areas, some can find that a little bit confronting,” she said.
“However, when that info comes from Ruby, who is well educated on how to educate people and a bit more mature and gentle in nature – and also doesn't have a paid job here – it comes across that she is doing this purely for passion.”
Ruby has also been a Gold Coat Ambassador at Perth Airport for 15 years, assisting people with directions and check-in procedures, and knits teddy bears for children in hospital.
She is one of 10 finalists in the WA Volunteer of the Year People's Choice Awards.