Two drought-stricken farmers who decided to cut up a rare Woolworths Ooshie live on TV say they are overwhelmed by the support they received in the wake of the collectable being chopped in half.
Having seen the absurd amounts the collectables were being listed for on eBay, Victorian farmers Melisa Portingale and Stephen Black initially decided to use their Furry Simba, one of only 100 made, to try and help raise funds for their bone dry land.
But following a wave of abuse online, the pair took to Channel Nine’s The Today Show on Friday morning to send a defiant message to their abusers.
“This is what I say to them. It’s done. You can’t buy it,” Mr Black said as he took a pair of scissors to the much-desired Ooshie.
And as the dust since settled on their dramatic stunt live on air, the couple certainly believe their decision has been vindicated.
In a moment which will go a long way to restoring their faith in the community, Ms Portingale and Mr Black received a hero’s welcome as they visited a pizza restaurant in Geelong over the weekend.
“They clapped which was really fantastic. It was the first time we had been really recognised somewhere else outside of our town,” Ms Portingale explained.
Social media reacts again to Ooshie stunt
She said she’d been keeping an eye on the reaction online following their defiant act, and said while there was “100 per cent Aussie spirit” in all comments online, there was still a handful of people leaving negative remarks.
While Mr Black said he had avoided looking at social media, he said hindsight hasn’t changed his stance.
“I’m happy with my actions. I don’t regret it,” he told The Today Show.
Ms Portingale said the reaction to them trying to cash in on their Ooshie was “just awful” with some even making “suicidal” threats, only worsening their current mental state.
“[Our] mental state at the best of times is really really stretched then you get the abuse on top of that. It's very difficult,” she said on Friday.
Mr Black said his farm at Katandra West, in northern Victoria, was in a dire situation, and that he'd tried to educate people who had expressed interest in the Ooshie about water management problems in the Murray-Darling Basin.
And while his attempt to bring in irrigation water through the Ooshie failed, he called on the government to take immediate action to help farmers.
“People need to be able to run their business and survive,” he said.
During their appearance on Monday, the farmers were handed a goodwill gesture of $1500 by Rural Aid counsellor Gary Bentley to help with their ongoing struggles.
“That's what Rural Aid does at a base level for farmers in need. And we are doing it here today for these people as well,” Mr Bentley said.
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