Thursday, 11 February 2010
Royal Flying Doctor Service
I rise this evening to pay tribute, as I have on a number of occasions in the past in this House, to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and to extend my gratitude to the service for the vital work it does for the people of the outback in Queensland and, indeed, across Australia. I pay tribute also to those pilots and nurses who I have witnessed over and over again being prepared to leave their base in darkness and at dawn, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to attend a clinic or an emergency wherever the call comes from.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service is the realisation of a dream by Presbyterian minister, Reverend John Flynn, who witnessed how the tyranny of distance was making it difficult for remote Queenslanders to visit a doctor. In fact, there were just two doctors treating people across an area of almost two million square kilometres. Reverend Flynn wanted these people of the outback to be secure in the knowledge that there was someone to provide them with health care, no matter where they lived. In May this year, it will 82 years since the Australian Inland Aerial Medical Service was born in Cloncurry, Queensland, and Reverend Flynn’s vision of a mantle of safety for the people of the outback was realised.
Now known as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the not-for-profit organisation has only grown bigger and better. From its first base in Cloncurry—now relocated to Mount Isa—the flying doctor has grown to 21 bases and another five health facilities across Australia. The first flying doctor pilot, Arthur Affleck, flew with a compass and perhaps some inadequate maps. He had no navigational aids—no GPS—aside from the compass, and no radio. Today, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has 53 aircraft and is Australia’s fourth largest fleet, employing just under 1,000 people. Last financial year, the RFDS attended more than 274,000 patients and flew almost 24 million square kilometres of area of this great landmass, Australia.
Last financial year, the 14 aircraft of the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s Queensland section flew more than 6.7 million kilometres and clocked up over 20,000 flying hours. They treated more than 44,800 patients in over 5,100 clinics conducted across the state. In my own electorate of Maranoa, the Longreach office conducted 488 clinics, and the Charleville aerial base conducted 415. Together, the two bases attended almost 5,000 patients in western Queensland, located in remote communities many kilometres from medical help.
These are incredible statistics. It just gives a glimpse of how vital the RFDS is to the health, safety and survival of the people of the outback. But, of course, none of this can be possible without the financial support of companies, individuals, the federal government and communities.
On the bar in the Birdsville Hotel there is a sign hanging over a collection tin. It informs patrons that they are not in America and they should not be wearing their baseball caps backwards, because if they do they will be fined a gold coin. It is a humorous sign, and no doubt it has collected a fair bit of gold from the amused tourists. It is a cheeky message as well, but it also shows how deeply the people of Birdsville and the outback of Australia feel for, support and appreciate the work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Last year I had the privilege of winning the Politzer Prize, which is an annual photographic competition for federal MPs and senators. The PR group Parker and Partners organise this competition and, with the help of journalists and photographers from the press gallery, they choose their winner. The photograph gave just a glimpse of the thousands of pelicans on the floodplains of the Georgina River in the west of my electorate.
The money that I received as a prize for that photograph will go to the Royal Flying Doctor Service tomorrow morning in Brisbane. It will go to Nino Di Marco. A representative from Parker and Partners will also be there. Through this process I want to convey my appreciation to the company for providing this generous donation. I certainly look forward to handing over this $5,000 cheque.
The motto of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is: ‘The furthest corner, the finest care’. Nothing could be truer, and, in this 82nd year of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, I salute all those past and present who have served in the Royal Flying Doctor Service. (Time expired)