Every year in October, a small team from the women’s auxiliary gets together to embark upon a tremendous feat – the preparation of 2000 Christmas puddings to raise money for the Broken Hill base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Making 17 to 18 puddings at a time, the women put in eight hour working days for two weeks. “We have a basic member crew – it probably ranges from, oh, eight, nine, ten – and then volunteers who come every year,” says Vice President Coral Ford. “It’s all voluntary of course. They come out and give us some support – sometimes it’s two hours, sometimes it’s a day.”
The pudding-making has been through many premises over the years – hotel kitchens, an old hospital pathology building, North Mine Ambulance Room, another mine’s staff room and cafeteria – before Perilya Mine fitted out a room just for them, for the specific purpose of making 2000 Christmas puddings. “They’ve done it up beautifully for us,” says Coral.
The first documented case of the pudding fundraiser was in 1956, when 75 puddings were made at a member’s home, but it is believed the tradition stretches back even earlier. Carol has been making puddings every year for 15 years.
GOOD PUD, GOOD CAUSE
As fun as the idea is, the reason behind the pudding drive is more serious – really, it’s a matter of life and death. With over 54,000 patient contacts in 2012/2013 alone, ensuring those outside city centres can still access quality medical care, the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s importance to rural and remote communities cannot be overstated. For the Broken Hill community, they are literally lifesavers.
“I believe our isolation is the key to it, to why the RFDS is so important,” says Coral. “Flights are available to Adelaide from Broken Hill, if requested by medical staff. They also fly out to clinics at remote stations and mining areas; if there are accidents they’re on call, and they always respond. Always. The money we raise in Broken Hill stays in Broken Hill, and we ask that it goes to supporting the base.”
“We’re very proud of what we’re doing, and our hardworking band of ladies. In the last year we raised $95,000 for the Flying Doctors here locally, from last year’s puddings and a mid-year ball we put on.”
And their work is thoroughly appreciated by the RFDS. “The Women’s Auxiliary has been supporting the RFDS for over fifty years,” says RFDS Broken Hill Base Manager Steve Martin. “It’s rare to see that kind of loyalty pass from one generation to the next, and it shows what a great sense of community we have. Their efforts help save lives.”
A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Puddings are $20 each, and posted out to homes around the country. But with the Women’s Auxiliary’s puddings so highly sought after, they are already almost entirely sold out. Would Coral consider sharing the recipe for those who missed out to try at home?
“It’s been the same recipe for half a century and it has been a secret in the Royal Flying Doctors Women’s Auxiliary for all that time,” Coral says proudly, before adding with a smile, “I’m sure the ladies wouldn’t want me to give it to you.”