Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Many Happy Returns

It can’t be done, they said. It will never work.

It was a chilly six degrees in Broken Hill this morning, and that was on the ground. Up in the air, in a fabric covered De Havilland (that looked like it was made out of balsa wood) it would have been freezing, even in Queensland. That’s where the Royal Flying Doctor Service took its first flight, eighty-five years ago today.

Here’s what the doctor, Dr Kenyon St Vincent Welch, thought of his ride in the De Havilland:

Wind roars past and straining wires vibrate with a low-pitched note as now one and now another feels the stress put upon it by the great wings. Every part of the fabric of the machine is in a state of vibration, and gives out its own low-pitched note, which is amplified by the great drum-like wings.

The Rev John Flynn ignored the nay-sayers who thought it couldn’t be done and he quietly set about starting a medical service for Australians in isolated, remote areas. Sometimes not so quietly. Flynn was a tireless campaigner. He wrote letters, addressed meetings, gave presentations, even started his own newsletter to drum up support.

He didn’t stop until he made it happen.

Flynn wasn’t a pilot, he wasn’t a doctor and he wasn’t a communications expert, but he found people who were and he brought them together. He inspired them to work with him and he devoted his life to realising his vision.

The people who live in remote areas today are often farmers. They produce the food that fills our fridges, and in spite of advances in travel and communications they’re still isolated.

I’ve been trying to set up an interview with Nina Betts, who lives on Mungerannie Station on the Birdsville Track. She and her husband run cattle. They produce organic, free-range beef, and they’ve had their fair share of accidents and emergencies, some of which required help from the Flying Doctor. Nina used to be a solicitor until she married a farmer and I know she would make an ideal subject for the book I’m writing.

But it’s a twelve-hour car journey from Broken Hill to Mungerannie Station. I’ve been trying to figure out an easier way of getting there, and so far I’ve failed. When I’m tempted to give up and choose another person to interview, I remember John Flynn’s motto.

‘Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks.’

So I’m not giving up. Not yet.

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This entry was posted on May 17, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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