Founded by the Very Rev. John Flynn, the Royal Flying Doctor Service played a crucial role in the development of Inland NSW, and continues to play an important part in outback communities.
A lifeline for the health and wellbeing of Australians living in the outback, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) covers 80 per cent of the country – an area the size of Western Europe.
John Flynn's vision of providing a "Mantle of Safety" (as he called it) for the people of the Inland, can be traced back to the years immediately preceding World War I. When the Presbyterian Church's Australian Inland Mission (A.I.M.) was one of several church bodies undertaking missionary work in the Inland.
A.I.M. was conscious of the terrible isolation of the Inland people, so remote from medical and religious care.
John Flynn began his missionary work in 1912, at a time when only two doctors served an area of some 300,000 square kms in Western Australia and 1,500,000 square kms in the Northern Territory.
It did not take him long to realise that air transport and radio were needed to break the isolation of the Inland and to provide adequate medical care of its people. But he had to wait many years before he could translate his vision of a Flying Doctor Service into practice.
Aircraft at that time were not suited for ambulance work and radio was then still very much in its infancy.
Certainly, in the days before the Flying Doctor Service started, serious illness or accident often meant death. The Inland holds many lonely graves of people whom might have lived had they been able to receive medical aid quickly enough.
It is a fascinating story of a uniquely Australian venture - the Royal Flying Doctor Service. As the first of its kind in the world it had its beginning in Queensland in May 1928.
Developed on a national basis in the 1930's, the Service soon provided for the people of the Inland not only medical aid in emergencies, but also a comprehensive health care and community service.
Visitors can experience the RFDS for themselves on one of the continually running guided tours of its base. You can also see RFDS activities presented in the Mantle of Safety Museum.
The School of the Air is a unique institution for visitors, but an everyday experience for children of the outback.Today, radio communication is mostly replaced by email, intranet and social media over satellite-linked internet, but the education connection between students and their teacher remains the same.
The School of the Air classroom in the Broken Hill region covers over a million square kilometres, with a student population of about 80 living on outback stations. To listen in on a class and gain an insight into this essential service, book through the Broken Hill Visitor Information Centre.