Royal Flying Doctor Service | www.flyingdoctor.org.au
RFDS founder, Reverend John Flynn
The RFDS has a rich and vibrant history, starting with the dream of a Presbyterian minister, Reverend John Flynn. Ordained in 1911, Flynn initially worked in rural and remote Australia setting up hostels and bush hospitals for pastoralists, miners, road workers, railwaymen and other settlers. He witnessed the daily struggle of pioneers living in remote areas and his vision was to provide a ‘mantle of safety’ for people of the bush.
On 15 May 1928, his dream became a reality when a long time supporter, H.V. McKay, left a large bequest for ‘an aerial experiment’. This enabled Flynn to open the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service in Cloncurry, Queensland (later to be renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service).
From that first flight in a single engine, fabric covered bi-plane, Flynn expanded the service to include the first ‘telehealth’ services for those in the bush using the early radios of the time (which later lead to the establishment of the famous School of the Air, which also still operates to this day).
Fittingly, in 1994 the Australian Council Office collaborated with the Reserve Bank of Australia on the design of the Australian twenty dollar note, which now features the face of the Reverend John Flynn.
The growth of the RFDS in those early days was rapid and soon reached right across our vast continent. By the late 1930’s there were Sections of the RFDS operating in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Northern Territory and of course Queensland, and by the 1950s the RFDS was acknowledged by former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies as “perhaps the single greatest contribution to the effective settlement of the far distant country that we have witnessed in our time”. You can read more about the history of each of the RFDS Sections here. A biography on Reverend John Flynn can be found here.
From the 1960s the RFDS moved away from using aircraft contractors to instead progressively purchasing our own aircraft and employing our own pilots and engineers. Today, we own a fleet of 66 fully instrumented aircraft, operate from 23 aerobases across Australia and our pilots annually fly the equivalent of 34 round trips to the moon! We also now have customised vehicles built expressly for dental care, eye care and patient road transport. We’ve come a long way since that first flight in 1928 when the Flying Doctor became airborne!