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Have you seen Bruce? Rubber duck released down the Barwon River goes missing

Thursday April 29, 2021 - 23:49 EST
ABC image
Bruce the Flood Duck was sent down the Barwon River in April.  - ABC

It started out as a joke and ended up with a bright yellow rubber duck being sent down the flooded Barwon River in northern New South Wales.

Mungindi resident Tracey Neilsen said the idea for Bruce the Mungindi Flood Duck came to her to cheer up her nephew who has autism and was doing it tough during the floods earlier this month.

"The idea was to drop a duck in the river and see how far it goes," Ms Nielsen said.

Ms Neilsen said her nephew, three-year-old Dallas Jones, had struggled with the disruptions caused by the flooding after his family was forced to evacuate their rural property and staying with her in town temporarily.

"I thought it would bring a lot of joy to people because, like in Mungindi itself and the rest of down below us, we've had fires, drought, plague, and now floods. I think it would be something different," she said.

"It would float past the house and they would see it because their house is right on the river.

"It would bring a smile to everybody's face, especially for kids to see this giant duck floating down the river.

"And then it kind of just escalated from there."

Tour of the town

In a small town like Mungindi word gets around, and Bruce quickly took on celebrity status.

Before setting off on its riverine adventure on April 10, Bruce was taken around the town and had its photo taken with State Emergency Service volunteers, police, and ambulance officers.

Queensland Police Service Senior Constable Curtis Jope said everyone was happy to get behind Bruce.

"We're a pretty small town out here at Mungindi, but the community always gets behind initiatives like this, especially to make a young boy with autism happy," he said.

"I'm very proud of the town that I work in and there's some really good people in this town."

Where's Bruce?

The only problem is Bruce has gone AWOL.

The rubber duck missed its scheduled float past Dallas Jones' house and, despite their best efforts, Ms Nielsen said they had not spotted or been able to find Bruce.

But they are confident Bruce is still bobbing along on its southward escape route.

"I'm hoping it passed them during the night and it's heading to Melbourne," she said.

The border town ? split between Queensland and NSW ? has had a rough time when it lost its only supermarket and butcher in a massive fire last September.

The destruction compounded weeks of stress over COVID-19 border restrictions that cut the community off from key services.

The recent flooding has boosted morale though, with many hoping the floodwaters will lead to a good year for the region's farmers.

For Tracey Nielsen, she hopes Bruce ? with its fixed smile and smart black bow tie ? can help spread some of the cheer from Mungindi as it makes its way down the river system.

"I'm also hoping if it gets stuck, someone would see it and pick him up, take a photo ? and maybe put him back in the river and let him continue his journey," she said.


© ABC 2021

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