The drought-struck Aboriginal community of Wilcannia was inundated with presents when Damian "Dookie" Thorne drove into town with $20,000 worth of grocery hampers and children's toys.
The donations had come flooding in from Griffith residents and businesses, who all pitched in to make sure that nobody in Wilcannia went hungry this Christmas.
There were so many donations that several volunteers had to come along on the 8-hour drive to help tow another trailer-load of hampers.
"We're so lucky to be living in a town like Griffith," Dookie said.
"When the chips are down and you need to call on someone, the Griffith community will always be there."
Dookie, who is the Aboriginal Education Officer at Murrumbidgee Regional High School, came up with the idea on a school trip to Indigenous communities in Balranald, Menindee, and Wilcannia.
He saw fish bones strewn across dry Menindee lake-beds and Aboriginal communities suffering from unbearable conditions in Wilcannia.
He met the local Aboriginal children who used to play in the river every day, but who had been left high and dry when the water levels dwindled leaving nothing but puddles infested with blue-green algae.
"In Wilcannia the life expectancy for an Indigenous male is 36 to 45, which is just unbelievable," Dookie said.
"The suicide rate is at an all-time high, the rates for domestic violence is 95 per cent, and there are just no jobs out there. I thought to myself something has to be done out here."
He put the call out for donations and was blown away by the immediate response from the Griffith community.
In just seven days he'd accumulated 60 hampers, dozens of chickens and hams, hundreds of boxes of food, a dozen bicycles, clothes, and a whole bunch of children's toys.
Pat and Josie Sergi lent him the use of their van and portable fridge, and Paul Moon and his family came along to help tow a trailer full of hampers.
Ronnie Bamblett lent him his Little Green Truck and Stephen Violi helped him spread the word and help get donations in.
"We're blessed to live in a place like Griffith," Dookie said.
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