The Beautiful Christmas Tour Through A Drought-Ravaged Region
If you drive along a 60-kilometre stretch of road in south-west Queensland, you'll come across some joy among the dust.
Between the towns of Dirranbandi and Thallon, Santa has popped up behind the wheel of an old ute, on the back of a worn tractor-turned-sleigh and head-down a makeshift chimney, with presents in tow.
Tinsel adorns mail boxes and candy canes dot fences lining bone-dry paddocks, 600km west of Brisbane.
It's the work of a small drought-ravaged community that isn't letting parched land hamper its spirit.
"This isn't just about Christmas spirit, it's about bush spirit," local mother Jessie Persse told 10 daily.
"When things are tough, and it's so easy to let yourself feel down, this is us saying 'let's keep going. Let's keep making people smile'."
Persse lives with her husband and three children on a sheep farm in Thallon.
They've been in and out of severe drought for the last six years, though the last two years have hit the hardest.
"Any recent rain that we've had has been easily measured in millimetres. It's nothing that would change our or anyone's situation long term at this stage," she said.
With financial woes never far from mind, Persse said friendships and support from their tight-knit community help them get through each day.
"You can't let it get you down."
"The Dirranbandi community has really pulled together this year -- and the support really ramps up around Christmas," she said.
"This can be a really tough time for some families."
That's where the decorations come in. Persse said they were started by a local woman several years ago, who then moved closer to Dirranbandi.
What started with one property extended to the inlaws next door -- and soon word spread.
"So many people have jumped on board this year. Now it's a 50 or 60-kilometre drive where people can look at decorations in and around Dirranbandi," said Persse.
"It has turned into an experience."
The decorations are drawing viewers from as far as St George, about an hour north-east of Dirranbandi.
Persse posted photos of the driveway decorations on social media and described the response as "overwhelming".
"We've seen all of these when we drove past on our way to NSW. What an inspiration from the outback families," one person said on Facebook.
"This is priceless... Wonderful photos and the spirit of Christmas in the Bush reigns supreme," said another.
"Spreading the love even in bad times. I pray 2019 will be a great year."
Persse has plans to turn the display into a fundraising calendar next year.
"This has been a great year for creating awareness and understanding of the drought -- I'd like to see that continue," she said.
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Featured image: Supplied