Narrative History

of the Royal Flying Doctor Service

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) of Australia is a not-for-profit organsation that provides health care to people who cannot reach a hospital or doctor’s surgery due to the vast distances of the Australian Outback.

A organisation called the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) was founded in 1912 to provide religous support and medical care in the remote parts of Australia. More than a dozen nursing homes and bush hospitals were established by the AIM in its early years. On 15 May 1928 the Reverend John Flynn, a leading figure in the AIM, formed the AIM Aerial Medical Service (AMS) as a initial one-year experiment, based in Cloncurry, QLD. Using an aircraft leased from QANTAS, the services’s first flight took place on 17 May. 50 flights were made in the first year of operations, and sufficent donations and money from community fundraising were received to allow the service to continue well beyond its initial trial year.

In 1934 the Australian Aerial Medical Service (AAMS) was established, applying the Cluncurry model to other parts of the country. Sections were established in Victoria in 1934 and then New South Wales, South Australia and Northern Territory in 1936. Additional bases were also created in Queensland.

The expanding organisation formed an official Federal Council in 1936. In 1942 the service was renamed to Flying Doctor Service, and in 1955 the prefix Royal was bestowed.

Until the 1960s, the RFDS rarely owned aircraft, preferring to allow private contractors to provide aircraft, pilots and servicing. Subsequently, the service began to purchase aircraft and employ their own pilots and engineers.

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