Barmera was established as a soldier settlement and fruit growing area after World War 1. The town is situated on the gently sloping shores of Lake Bonney, which was named by overlander Joseph Hawdon (Hawdon Street is now named after him) after his travelling companion Charles Bonney in 1838. The name Barmera came from the Aboriginal word Barmeedjie meaning Lake.
The Cobdogla District Council, (as the District Council of Barmera was originally known) came into existence and was gazetted as a Council area on 17 June 1924, with an area of 23,338 acres. Several years later a proposal was put that the Council's name be altered, and after many years of opposition by the Cobdogla Councillors, a referendum by ratepayers was held, the result being 114 to 59 in favour of the change, however the Minister of Local Government refused to allow the name change. It was not until 16 June 1937 that the District Council of Cobdogla was proclaimed the District Council of Barmera.
The first meeting of the Council was held (at Barmera) in a cubicle (used as a shop) on 24th January 1924. Mr C. Bruce was elected the first Chairman, and it was decided to ask the Irrigation Commission "to erect a cubicle on the Town Hall site at Barmera for use as a Council Office".
The District Council of Barmera logo
Council originally comprised five Wards - Barmera Town Ward had one Councillor; Nookamka Ward, two Councillors; Loveday Ward, one Councillor, Cobdogla Town Ward, one Councillor and Cobdogla Flat Ward, one Councillor.
At the third meeting of Council a part time Clerk and an Overseer were appointed and from then onwards, "things began to move". A petrol gas lamp, for meetings, was purchased from the Chairman, a dray acquired, £28-16-9 paid for the Council cubicle and its' furnishings, and campaigns begun against flooding roads, not having lights on buggies, and driving on the wrong side of the road.
There were 345 assessments made in the first year, valued at £10,265 ($20,530), producing £685 ($1,370) in rates. Property value had risen to £88, 837 ($177,674) in 1927, and rates to £1,251 ($2,502).
The 1930's brought plenty of worry, including the provision of relief work and the control of vagrants. Some of the ratepayers were unhappy too, and in April "the Chairman intimated that a petition was in circulation asking that this District be attached to the Berri area".
The District Council of Berri and the District Council of Barmera amalgamated on 1st October 1996 to form the "Berri Barmera Council".
Points of Interest
- E & WS Dept. - Irrigation Office: Built in 1938 for the Lands Dept. at a cost of £2,494 (Approx. $5000). In 1980 it became part of the EWS after a restructuring of Government Departments. There is a bullet hole in the office floor from the accidental discharge of a pay guard's pistol.
- Pioneer Park: Commemorates the founding of Barmera in 1921.
- Savings Bank - Council Office: With the merging of the State Bank and the Savings Bank of SA in 1985, the old Savings Bank was vacant and then occupied by the Council, who previously were in the Hawden Chambers, in the Memorial Hall. Hawden and Bonney were overlanders who came through the district in 1836, bringing cattle from NSW.
- Horse Trough: A memorial trough to the Australian Light Horse Brigade who fought in the Middle East during WW1 has been erected in the centre of the Barmera Township.
- Clock Tower: A memorial to Captain Sturt who also walked on expeditions - passed Lake Bonney depression as he continued his search for the inland sea. The tower was erected on the Centenary of his visit. There is a memorial at Berri commemorating his river voyage.
- Memorial Gates: The plaques list the names of the service personnel who paid the supreme sacrifice in WW 11.
- War Memorial Hall: Built in 1929 as a memorial to those who fought and fell in the 1914-18 war. It was characteristic of SA country towns to build these halls after WW 11.
- Newsagency: This is the site of Barmera's first shop which was a weatherboard building opened in December 1919 as a general store.
- Bonney Theatre: This building has a most significant foundation stone, being laid in 1938 by the Hon. T. Playford.
- Barwell Avenue was once a water course.
- Electricity to the district was first distributed from Renmark.
- Donald Campbell's boat shed/Bluebird Cafe is on the Lake Bonney foreshore.
- Cobdogla has a most interesting Historical Humphrey Pump display.
- At Loveday, (south of Barmera) are the ruins of a WW 11 Internment Camp.
- Glossop High School was initially to be an Agricultural College