It's not every day you see a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft land at Taree Airport, but that's exactly what happened earlier this week to complete an important mission for Mid Coast Rotarians.
A C-27J Spartan landed at the airport on Monday, November 2 to collect 17 boxes of bed linen before flying to the Northern Territory (NT) to deliver it to people in remote communities on Bathurst Island and Melville Island.
The supplies landed in Darwin the following day before being transported to the islands. The project was coordinated by the Taree, Taree North and Lower Mid Coast Rotary clubs.
Rotary District 9650 assistant governor Laurie Easter said the delivery was years in the making and wasn't originally intended for the Tiwi Islands people.
"We've had the linen for a few years and had organised to transport it to Papua New Guinea but that never eventuated," Mr Easter explained.
"So it languished in a garage."
A Rotarian, who now works for the Tiwi Land Council (TLC), suggested the linen be sent to the islands. Soon after, the TLC chief executive spoke to Taree Rotary Club president David Denning about transporting the boxes north.
Valley Industries chief executive Trent Jennison had the linen laundered before it was folded and boxed up.
In July, Lower Mid Coast club members jumped in the car to deliver the boxes in person.
Their plan was soon foiled a few days later and were turned away at the NT border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Rotarian's son, who holds a high rank in the defence force, then organised the transport and delivery of the linen via the aircraft.
Mr Easter, Mr Denning and Lower Mid Coast Rotary Club secretary Barry Levick attended the airport to hand over the boxes.
At the sight of the large plane, airport staff were heard saying 'you don't see that every day'.
Mr Easter and Mr Denning will hopefully travel to Darwin in the coming weeks to present the goods to the Tiwi people. This will be dependant on COVID-19 restrictions.
Travel is no issue for the dedicated Rotarians.
"David and I have done projects in Papua New Guinea so we're used to it. For the longer term Rotarians this is what we get up to," Mr Easter said.
Rotary's partnership with the RAAF will go a long way to assist Aboriginal people in remote communities.
While other Rotary clubs focus on overseas aid, the Manning and Great Lakes cluster is keeping it in the country to assist remote communities with health issues.
"These Aboriginal communities have different health issues so we want to look at assisting them anyway we can," Mr Easter said.
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