aeromedical organisation in Australia

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (almost always abbreviated as RFDS) is an aeromedical non-profit organisation based in Australia that provides emergency and primary health care services for people living in rural, remote and regional areas of Australia who cannot access a hospital or general practice due to the vast distances of the Outback. It is one of the largest and most comprehensive aeromedical organisations in the world. While they serve throughout Australia, they mainly serve the outback, rural and farming areas of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

This article is a list of all the places where a traveller can have a little bit of experience about the RFDS and the work they do.

Even if you think you could never visit any of these places, maybe the new Australian $20 can give you some knowledge of the RFDS, if you look carefully at some of the features. This is of course, the John Flynn side, not the Mary Reibey side. A link here from the Reserve Bank of Australia will explain it all if you don't have a physical copy of the $20 note.

Additionally, a live flight map can be found here for those wandering about RFDS flight paths.


Map of RFDS tourism

While Australia's main population centres are close to the coast, with about 8 in every 10 Australians living there, there's still about four million people living in inland Australia (i.e. more than 60 km from the coast). While there are some major settlements in the outback, including Dubbo, Mount Isa, Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Port Augusta and Alice Springs, these cities make up a minority of the inland population. There are still farmers out there who are living 6–8 hours from the nearest town or settlement, particularly in WA and NT.

Rev. John Flynn started what became the RFDS in 1928. But the story began earlier, in 1917, with the death of stockman Jimmy Darcy, who lived in a remote outback area of the Kimberly region in WA. Darcy suffered major injuries when his horse fell in a cattle stampede. He was taken to Halls Creek, where the postmaster operated on him using instructions sent by Morse code from the nearest doctor, who was 2800 km away in Perth. The operation was an initial success and the doctor set out on a 10-day journey to Halls Creek, but Darcy died the day before he arrived. This tragic incident helped inspire Flynn to improve services to people in rural areas.

Also in 1917, Lieutenant Clifford Peel, a pilot and medical student travelling to WWI in France, wrote that aviation could transform living and safety conditions in the Outback. Sadly, Peel was killed in war, without knowing that he'd make huge history.

In 1928, about 11 years after the death of Darcy, the first air ambulance took off from Cloncurry in Outback Queensland to Julia Creek. The air ambulance was leased off Qantas' new base in nearby Longreach.

Today, the RFDS serves people in an area of 7.15 million sq km. They give life support to over 280,000 people who live far from the nearest sight of civilization. They help someone every two minutes, using a fleet of dozens of aircraft.

Due to this lifesaving support, Flynn, who died in 1951, was one of ten people to be pictured on an Australian banknote. He was quoted as saying, "If you start something worthwhile – nothing can stop it". The big increase in health safety in the outback largely goes back to Flynn, and also to Peel who wrote the letter about aviation for the outback. Both had the true Australian spirit.

Much of the RFDS' fame abroad comes from the drama series The Flying Doctors, aired from 1985 to 1993. The series followed the lives of an RFDS crew based in a fictional township called "Coopers Crossing" which is set in the real-life town of Minyip in north-western Victoria (not the Coopers Crossing in Innamincka) and the members of the local population that they served.

Note that this is not a list of RFDS bases, but rather a list of centres where the general public can experience what RFDS does. But almost all of the time, these are also RFDS bases, and if not, one being within a 10 km proximity.

New South Wales/South Australia


Northern Territory

  • 3 RFDS Alice Springs Tourist Facility, 8-10 Stuart Terrace, Alice Springs, +61 8 8958 8411. M-Sa 9:30AM-4:30PM Public Holidays 1PM-4:30PM. Closed Sundays. Features a life-size hologram of RFDS founder Reverend John Flynn. Also has more about the local history of the RFDS in Alice and like all RFDS tourist centres, features the RFDS history throughout Australia. $19 per Adult, $12 per Child (6 to 10 yrs), $14 per Student (11 to 18 yrs), $14 per Concession, $56 Family ticket.
  • 4 RFDS Darwin Tourist Facility, 39 Stokes Hill Rd, Stokes Hill Wharf, +61 8 8983 5700, . 9:30AM–5PM Daily. Unlike all the other tourist facilities, this is the only RFDS facility to have both the local history of RFDS, as well as the impacts of RFDS during the bombing in Darwin during WWII.



Western Australia


See also

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