Join in ... at the Round House

Julie McDonald invites you to join the volunteers who maintain Murray Bridge's oldest building.

“Join In” aims to promote community connections and wellbeing in the Murraylands – and it could promote your business, too. Murray Bridge News is seeking an ongoing sponsor for this regular feature. Call Peri on 0419 827 124 or email peri@murraybridge.news.

In the early years of South Australia, the colonial government had a problem.

More and more land was being occupied by pastoralists, and a livestock trade was developing – but there was nowhere drovers could safely cross the River Murray on their way to Melbourne.

A spot called Edwards Crossing was chosen as the site of the first bridge across the river.

But building it would take workers, those workers would need a supervisor, and that supervisor – Henry Parker – would need somewhere to live.

So, 145 years ago, the Round House was built.

The former residence, school, post office, church and council chamber, and the oldest building in Murray Bridge, is now a tourist attraction, newly revamped by the History Trust of SA and the city’s council.

Julie McDonald is one of the volunteers who works there.

When did you first get involved at the Round House?

In 2019, from going to the council and asking what (volunteer opportunities) they had. This was totally different, so I thought I’d give it a go ... If you’re new to an area, volunteering is a great way to meet people and make friends.

What do you get out of your involvement?

I really love it. It’s a beautiful home, a beautiful setting, probably the best view in Murray Bridge. The people running the volunteer program are really easy to deal with. And I love learning about history. By volunteering in a place like this and learning the history and the stories of the area, it makes you feel more like you belong. If you learn about your area and the people who used to be here, you feel more connected. I’ve also met lots of lovely people who’ve come through, and they have plenty of stories as well, from around the world, though most come from around Australia. We had here last week a group from the Riverland, and some of them work at the Loxton Pioneer Village, so we were swapping tales.

What is your fondest memory of your time at the Round House?

There have been a few. We’ve had some school groups though, seven-year-old children, and they’re fascinated by things here they’ve never seen before because they’re from a period so long ago. Slate boards, using old washing machines, playing croquet – things like that kids have never seen. We’ve also had some Devonshire teas with people from nursing homes, and they’re lovely people.

What do you spend your time doing?

We maintain the house, the cleanliness of it; we research, we look up things ourselves about the period; we’re always learning our lines (for tours). We have a garden crew, we keep the outside swept and clean. And we take people through for tours. There have been weddings on the lawns, too, and people hire it out for different things.

What is your goal at the Round House?

Our goal is to teach people about history, but in an entertaining, storytelling style, so they don’t really know they’re learning it. They go away knowing a little bit more about the area and what happened before.

Why should people volunteer at the Round House?

It’s not hard work for people who have any restrictions, physically. It’s enjoyable. The people you report to are easy to get along with. We sit out here in the sunshine and have lunch every day. It’s just perfect.

“Join In” aims to promote community connections and wellbeing in the Murraylands – and it could promote your business, too. Murray Bridge News is seeking an ongoing sponsor for this regular feature. Call Peri on 0419 827 124 or email peri@murraybridge.news.