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The Flying Doctors of Australia

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-05-31 (Revised/Updated 2016-09-24) - Information on The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) an air ambulance service for people living in remote areas - Disabled World.

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Quote: "The Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service began in 1928, originally as an experiment known as the Aerial Medical Service (AMS) which was to run for just a year."

The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) is an air ambulance service for people living in the remote inland areas of Australia.

Every day in many ways the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service takes the finest care to Australia's furthest corners so that anyone who lives, works or travels in remote and rural Australia can enjoy the best of health.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) is an air ambulance service for people living in the remote inland areas of Australia. It is a not-for-profit organization which provides both emergency assistance and primary health care to people who cannot easily get to a hospital or general practice due to the prohibitive distances of the Outback. The Service also assists with distance education.

The Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service began in 1928, originally as an experiment known as the Aerial Medical Service (AMS) which was to run for just a year. It was formed by Reverend John Flynn, the first Superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission (AIM), a branch of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. Working as a minister in the bush, Flynn dreamed of making the outback a safe place to live. He thought that instead of a patient traveling in tough conditions to get to a doctor, the doctor could go to the patient. World War I then prompted the idea of using planes to take doctors to where they were needed.

Within the first year of operations, the service flew approximately 20,000 miles in 50 flights, becoming the first comprehensive air ambulance service in the world. The service persisted through some very tough first few years, dealing with postwar Australia and the Great Depression of the 1930s. During its first few decades the service relied heavily on community fundraising, volunteer support and donations. This is still the mainstay of the service's funding, but it benefits greatly from State and Federal Government funding programs that have since been introduced. Until the 1960s the service predominantly hired aircraft, pilots and service technicians from contractors. After this point, the service moved on to purchasing its own equipment and employing its own pilots and mechanics.

In 1932, the success from its operations in Cloncurry, and the increasing public awareness to this quite vital rural service, resulted in a push for a national network of flying doctors, hopefully with sponsorship from the government. In 1934 this was realized with the new Australian Aerial Medical Service opening up "Sections" across the nation. Bases were set up in Wyndham, Port Hedland, Kalgoorlie, Broken Hill, Alice Springs and Meekatharra. The Queensland experiment was expanded with two additional bases opening in Charters Towers and Charleville. An official Federal Council for the organization was formed in 1936. In 1942 it was again renamed to Flying Doctor Service, with Royal being bestowed upon the service in 1955.

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."

Today Australian Flying Doctor Service is still heavily reliant on community support for funding, and is well respected across the country as an organization that has contributed so much to rural development and operates in four main sections:

Central Operations - with bases at Adelaide Airport, Alice Springs, Port Augusta, South Australia, and Yulara.

Queensland Section - Brisbane Airport, Bundaberg, Cairns International Airport, Charleville, Mount Isa, Rockhampton and Townsville Airport

Western Operations - Derby, Kalgoorlie, Meekatharra, Perth's Jandakot Airport, and Port Hedland

South Eastern Section - Broken Hill, New South Wales; Dubbo, New South Wales; Launceston, Tasmania; Essendon Airport in Melbourne; and Sydney Airport and Bankstown Airport in Sydney.

At the end of 2005 there were 50 aircraft operating through 22 Flying Doctor bases. The RFDS had 495 full-time and 145 part-time staff members. Total operating expenses were AU$ 31,017,289 of which $ 2,325,467 was funded by donations while the remainder came from Government and internal funding.

In 1985 there was an Australian TV drama series produced by Crawford Productions named "The Flying Doctors" that revolved around the everyday lifesaving efforts of the real Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.



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