2020 in review: 120 local stories that made our year

Yes, there was a coronavirus pandemic; but how many more of these local stories will you remember?

Years from now, 2020 will be remembered for just one thing.

But we were fortunate in South Australia, and in the Murraylands in particular, to have only a handful of local cases during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

So, by and large, life went on, and with it the things you might expect in any other year: council dramas, progress on developments, shining examples of humanity and generosity, and even a few public events.

Click the red links below to read the full stories; almost all are now free to read.

How many of those listed below do you remember?

Keep track of your score as you go…

Competitors turn onto Bridge Street during the final moments of stage four of the 2020 Tour Down Under. Photo: Peri Strathearn/The Murray Valley Standard.


6 – Foodbank SA launches a fundraising campaign to establish a food hub in Murray Bridge.

9 – Swimming SA’s country championships begin at Murray Bridge Swimming Centre.

13 – The Beston Global Food Company announces it will quadruple production of lactoferrin, an ingredient in infant formula, at its Jervois factory.

21 – Bridget Mather attends her first monthly meeting as CEO of the Coorong District Council.

26 – Helen Peake is named Murray Bridge’s citizen of the year in an Australia Day ceremony at Sturt Reserve. Mobilong Prison officer Bernie Gelston is awarded the National Corrections Medal.

27 – Thousands of people watch the Tour Down Under roll through the Murraylands on its way to a stage finish on Bridge Street. The state government abandons its Globelink plan for an airport and freight bypass at Monarto.

29 – Murray Bridge Mayor Brenton Lewis and his predecessor, Allan Arbon, reflect on the success of the Imagine Your Rural City 2020 campaign.

30 – South Australian company SAPGen reveals plans to build the state’s third-largest power plant at Tepko.


2 – A fundraiser at Riverglen Marina raises more than $5000 for firefighters and their families in the wake of blazes on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills.

3 – Murray Bridge’s Locky Gilbert returns to the silver screen in the first episode of Australian Survivor: All-Stars.

10 – A row of shacks on Wildens Way will be demolished in 2061 and a stretch of valuable riverfront land turned into a public park, the Murray Bridge council rules.

21 – Hillgrove Resources and AGL pull out of a deal that would have turned the Kanmantoo copper mine into a pumped hydro energy storage facility.

26 – Ambulance volunteer Bob Menadue is made a Commander in the Order of St John.


10 – The Coorong council was too generous in handing out company credit cards to staff and its former mayor, South Australia’s Auditor-General finds.

11 – Businessman Adam Bruce reveals a plan to build a cable water sports park in Murray Bridge.

16 – Murray Bridge High School’s formal becomes one of the first local events to be cancelled due to a coronavirus outbreak which had been declared a pandemic five days earlier.

17 – Social agency AC Care launches a campaign to raise $100,000 to house at-risk youth in Murray Bridge.

27 – Ore processing finishes at Hillgrove Resources’ Kanmantoo copper mine.


2 – “We are here”, business owners say in a confidence-boosting video put together in the face of a coronavirus-related downturn.

3 – Locals join a national effort to create a “rainbow trail” connecting people across Australia as state borders close.

8 – Two people are confirmed to have tested positive to the coronavirus in the Murray Bridge district, SA Health reveals.

14 – Australian Community Media temporarily ceases print publication of The Murray Valley Standard and stands down its local staff.

22 – Artists Morris Green, Shane Cook, Harley Hall and Mike Makatron complete three murals in the heart of Murray Bridge.

23 – Stood-down newspaper journalist Peri Strathearn launches Murray Bridge News.

25 – Anzac Day services are closed to the public and live-streamed on Facebook, or echoed across the River Murray to a World War II veteran.

30 – Foodbank SA’s “tucker into the Bridge” appeal reaches its $100,000 target.


1 – A dedicated respiratory clinic opens in Murray Bridge in preparation for any local outbreak of COVID-19.

5 – Keepers at Monarto Safari Park resort to some strange antics to keep the animals entertained, six weeks after the park was forced to close due to COVID-19.

6 – A Woods Point retiree protests a company’s plan for a solar farm across the road from his house.

11 – Rockleigh residents plan to resurrect the local tennis club.

12 – Volunteers hand out free food to families left short due to COVID-19 at Murray Bridge Community Centre.

14 – The Murray Bridge council plans to spend more than $14 million on new community facilities in 2020-21, fuelled by a property rate increase.

15 – A regional rowing centre will be built at Sturt Reserve, the Murray Bridge council, rowing club and state government announce; construction would begin within weeks.

19 – A scaffolding collapse during a storm raises eyebrows at the Bridgeport Hotel construction site.

21 – Ramblers becomes one of the first River Murray Football League clubs to resume training after an enforced break.

25 – Work progresses on major construction works at Murray Bridge High School.

28 – Bridge Street retailers worry about the long-term future of the precinct, and not just because of the coronavirus.

Glanniss and Wes Taylor, Reg Biar, Jo Harris, Phil Nutt and Helen Johnston protest a planned nursing home on Tumbella Drive. Photo: Peri Strathearn.


16 – Tumbella Drive residents band together against a proposed nursing home to be built on their street. Ngarrindjeri authorities begin to transform the 1860 home of missionary George Taplin into a museum.

19 – Tailem Bend loses its Supercars race as the series shuffles its 2020 season schedule. Thomas Foods International wins development approval for its new Murray Bridge meat works, on the recommendation of council staff.

25 – Coorong councillor Vern Leng is found to have breached a code of conduct for elected members, and the Local Government Association says “immediate intervention” is needed to keep the council from imploding.

26 – A $52 million wastewater treatment plant opens at Brinkley.

30 – The Victorian government guarantees the Overland will return, extending its funding by three years.


1 – Landscape SA Murraylands and Riverland replaces the old NRM board. River Murray irrigators start the water year with 40 per cent of their usual allocations.

2 – Plans for a new, bigger boat ramp at Sturt Reserve hit a snag when engineers say anything built in the area will sink into the river bed.

4 – Oscar Noye’s diagnosis inspires dozens of people to participate in the World’s Greatest Shave, raising $110,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation.

8 – Murray Bridge’s pedal prix is cancelled due to COVID-19.

10 – Women’s footy club the Murraylands Swans resumes training at Murray Bridge Showground after coming close to forfeiting its season. Youth mental health organisation Headspace announces it will move to a new site in Murray Bridge, later revealed to be the former CFS headquarters.

16 – The Murray Bridge council announces an ambitious plan to fight climate change.

24 – Two men are arrested at Tailem Bend after breaking through a checkpoint on the Victorian border.

30 – State MP Adrian Pederick resigns from his parliamentary position over his role in an accomodation allowance scandal; he would later be cleared by ICAC. Local athlete Morgan Coull competes in a televised eco-challenge in Fiji with world-renowned adventurer Bear Grylls.

Financial counsellor Janet Emmins warns about the level of disadvantage experienced by thousands of Murray Bridge residents. Photo: Peri Strathearn.


4 – Australian Community Media announces it will close its Murray Bridge printing site at the cost of 26 jobs.

6 – The Captain Proud becomes the first paddle boat in decades to visit Tailem Bend at the opening of a new pontoon at Dickson Reserve.

10 – Murray Bridge High School announces it will get a new logo, motto, colours and uniforms.

12 – A team of Jervois netballers competes in the Southern United association due to the cancellation of the 2020 River Murray season.

13 – Rotarians, high schoolers and the Murray Bridge council collaborate on a revamp of Jubilee Park.

17 – Two new ag classrooms are opened to conclude the Unity Agricultural Show.

18 – More than 2000 locals will be pushed back into “grinding poverty” if Jobseeker and other federal government benefits are not kept at a higher level, advocates say.

19 – Murray Bridge’s “big blue building”, Mobilong House, turns white for a refurbishment. The Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission announces a plan, later dumped, to put Murray Bridge and Mount Barker in the same electorate from 2022.

24 – A nursing home on Tumbella Drive wins development approval, despite neighbours’ objections. Murray Bridge woman Danielle Dutschke treks 1200 kilometres along the Heysen Trail to raise money for Ugandan children.

25 – An investigation into the use of council credit cards by former Mayor Neville Jaensch finds problems with the Coorong council’s policies.

27 – The Murray Bridge Agricultural and Horticultural Society is fighting for survival, president Anna Scheepers says, and not just because of the cancellation of the 2020 show.

30 – Tailem Bend gets its Supercars race back, and an extra one to boot, as the racing series re-jigs its calendar again.

31 – Bunnings reveals plans for a new, $16 million store in Murray Bridge. Residents move into a new wing at Lerwin Nursing Home.


2 – The first blocks of land go on sale at residential housing development Newbridge, at the old Murray Bridge Racecourse. The Coorong council votes to allow GM crops in the district.

4 – Tailem Bend CFS moves into its new station.

7 – Mayor Brenton Lewis opens up about the workings of Murray Bridge Safe, a group which works behind the scenes to fix social problems in the community.

8 – Coorong councillor Glynis Taylor floats the idea of building a riverfront theatre at Tailem Bend.

14 – An event is held on Adelaide Road to celebrate the completion of the Callington Spur Trail.

17 – Murray Bridge residents will not get a public transport feasibility study promised at the 2018 election after all, state MP Adrian Pederick admits.

21 – Plumber Josh McKeown dies in a workplace accident at Tailem Bend; the under-15 footy team he coached would go on to win its grand final.

22 – The Murraylands Domestic Violence Awareness Group launches a film clip titled “You Are Not Alone”.

24 – Coorong Councillor Glynis Taylor is found to have breached an elected member code of conduct.

25 – The rate of Jobseeker and other government payments is reduced by $300, at a cost to Murray Bridge’s economy of $750,000 per fortnight. Murray Bridge Basketball Association campaigns for better facilities to keep its 550 members safe and happy.

26 – Unity College holds its year 12 formal at Murray Bridge Town Hall.

28 – Jervois Football Club wins the River Murray’s league, reserves and under-15 grand finals at Johnstone Park.

State MP Adrian Pederick and Health Minister Stephen Wade open the Murray Bridge hospital’s new emergency department. Photo: Peri Strathearn.


6 – Murray Bridge’s cyclists vote to establish their own club.

7 – The Murray Bridge council plans to stage a modified Christmas pageant at Sturt Reserve.

8 – A Jobkeeper recipient and an emergency relief worker speak out about what it’s like to live in poverty on government benefits.

14 – Anti-violence charity DVINA opens an op shop in Murray Bridge.

16 – Winning Partner wins the 2020 Gold Cup. Streaming company Stan shoots a Christmas movie, A Sunburnt Christmas, at Callington.

21 – The new emergency department opens at Murray Bridge Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.

22 – The controversial National Carp Control Plan has been delayed until at least mid-2021, a fisheries official reveals.

26 – Cabinetmaker Patrick Robinson is named apprentice of the year at MTE SA’s 2020 awards night.

27 – Murray Bridge Racing Club chairman Reg Nolan steps down after 18 years. The Coorong council formally acknowledges “climate variability”, but declines to take firm action to deal with it.

29 – SA Health begins testing wastewater for COVID-19 at Tailem Bend.

30 – Murray Bridge’s swimming centre reopens after a $2.8 million refurbishment. Tailem Bend Christmas Parade volunteers announce their plans to share festive spirit without the annual pageant.

Plans for a cable water sport park in Murray Bridge were rejected by the council’s assessment panel. Image: Bridge Watersport Park/Facebook.


1 – Governor Hieu Van Le opens Murray Bridge’s new war memorial.

2 – Neville and Marie Mueller are named among the winners in Murray Bridge’s Spring Garden Awards. A $200,000 sand training track opens at Murray Bridge Racing Club.

9 – The Ngarrindjeri nation’s highest achievers are celebrated during NAIDOC Week. The SA Variety Bash rolls through Wellington East.

13 – A council assessment panel shoots down Adam Bruce’s plan for a cable water sports park in Murray Bridge. A Ngarrindjeri artwork is unveiled on and around an SA Water pump station on Swanport Road.

16 – Murray Bridge’s Christmas festivities are cancelled again as SA Health cracks down on an emerging coronavirus cluster in northern Adelaide.

18 – Shoppers scramble and a local mask-maker stays open late after SA Health announces a week-long lockdown, later shortened, to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

19 – Murray Bridge High School’s year 12s farewell 2020 at a toned-down dinner.

25 – Meals on Wheels volunteers Helen Schubert and Gwen Parbs are recognised for giving 50 years of service to the Murray Bridge branch; others would be recognised in December.

26 – Artist Lewis Aunger shoots to fame after drawing a cartoon of chief medical officer Nicola Spurrier astride a robotic pigeon.

29 – Local artist Sienna Montgomery-Pittaway wins the 2020 Rotary Youth Art Prize.

Adrian Pederick, Darren Thomas, Steven Marshall, Jim Whiting and Tony Pasin ceremonially turn the first sod at Thomas Foods new site. Photo: Peri Strathearn.


3 – The Murraylands’ grain farmers bring in a record-breaking crop, much of which passes through Viterra’s storage facility at Tailem Bend.

12 – Film producer Kieran Altmann returns to his home town for an Adelaide Film Festival screening at the Cameo Cinema.

14 – A South African training stable and a $200,000 horse race will move to Murray Bridge, Thoroughbred Racing SA announces.

16 – Thomas Foods International begins its long-awaited rebuild. Coorong council CEO Bridget Mather apologises for a budgeting error which cost ratepayers $350,000.

17 – The winners of Murray Bridge’s Christmas lights competition are announced.

Did you win at 2020?

So: how many of those stories were already on your radar?

  • 0-20: We miss you ever since you moved away

  • 21-40: You’re right, the news can be boring sometimes

  • 41-60: You read all the flyers by the door at McCue’s as you head in to get a savoury slice

  • 61-80: You’re obviously well connected in our community

  • 81-100: Thank you for subscribing to Murray Bridge News

  • 101-120: Send me your resume!

With that, we’ll say goodbye, 2020 – don’t let the door hit you on the way out.