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Thursday, 1st August, 2019

Volunteer at the Milparinka Precinct John Eyles. PICTURE: Supplied Volunteer at the Milparinka Precinct John Eyles. PICTURE: Supplied

By Callum Marshall

The Milparinka Heritage Precinct will be open for a little longer this tourist season, with Corner Country Outback Australia managing to find some extra volunteers that’ll keep it open towards the end of October.

With the precinct’s tourist season stretching from March to early October, Corner Country’s Ruth Sandow said she wanted to extend its opening times by a couple of weeks while the weather was still bearable. 

“I just thought if there’s a possibility of somebody putting their hand up for the job, once we’ve closed after the long weekend in October, it was worth a try,” she said.

“It’s is a volunteer program and most times operates every day of the week right through all those tourist season months.

“But it turns out we have some people who are willing to come and keep it open towards the end of October.

“We often hear comments from people saying, ‘we called in at Milparinka but there was nobody there.’

“So this is just one way of keeping things going for a little bit longer until it really does start to get uncomfortable and people aren’t travelling as much.”

Precinct volunteer John Eyles, who did the roster for this year’s tourist season, said he was first drawn to Milparinka and its historical buildings when he visited in the 1980s.

“I came out here in the mid-1980s and I was just blown away by these buildings,” he said.

“You sort of drove for mile after mile, and back in those days there wasn’t much tar, and you came here and saw these quite magnificent buildings (but) absolutely nothing to tell you what they were.

“I came back again in about 2006 ... and discovered that there were, by then, people volunteering and that the buildings were opened up.

“They were able to give us the history and where they came from, what they were doing here and all of that.

“And I thought, ‘that’s an interesting thing to do when I retire.’ So I did in 2010.

“I did a week up here and read all of the information I could find and got a lot more of the background of coming out here.

“I’m still amazed how people lived here in the 1880s and survived. It’s really quite amazing.”

He wasn’t the only one who’d come to visit and decided to volunteer, said John.

“A lot of people that have come through here have done the same thing  - they’ve seen people doing this and thought ‘this might be an interesting thing to do’,” he said.

“Every time I’ve done it, I think I’ve had at least one person who’s said, ‘can I have some more details? I’d like to be contacted when you’re doing the roster.’”

And the work of volunteers, said Ruth, was incredibly important. 

“In a place like Milparinka they’re absolutely vital because the centre doesn’t generate enough income to justify paying a wage for the hours that we’re actually open,” she said.

“So volunteering is one way of providing a service, looking after those heritage buildings and helping to interpret the quite remarkable history of the area.

“The whole show would just come to a grinding halt if it wasn’t for volunteers, there’s no question about that.”

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