History

RFDS founder, Reverend John Flynn

The RFDS has a rich and vibrant history, starting with the dream of a Presbyterian minister, Reverend John Flynn. Ordained in 1911, Flynn initially worked in rural and remote Australia setting up hostels and bush hospitals for pastoralists, miners, road workers, railwaymen and other settlers. He witnessed the daily struggle of pioneers living in remote areas and his vision was to provide a 'mantle of safety' for people of the bush.

Graphic: john flynn

On 15 May 1928, his dream became a reality when a long time supporter, H.V. McKay, left a large bequest for 'an aerial experiment'. This enabled Flynn to open the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service in Cloncurry, Queensland (later to be renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service).

From that first flight in a single engine, fabric covered bi-plane, Flynn expanded the service to include the first 'telehealth' services for those in the bush using the early radios of the time (which later lead to the establishment of the famous School of the Air, which also still operates to this day).

A biography on Reverend John Flynn can be found here.

$20 dollar note

The growth of the RFDS in those early days was rapid and soon reached right across our vast continent. By the late 1930's there were Sections of the RFDS operating in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Northern Territory and of course Queensland, and 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".  

You can read more about the history of each of the RFDS Sections here


From the 1960s the RFDS moved away from using aircraft contractors to instead progressively purchasing our own aircraft and employing our own pilots and engineers. Today, we own a fleet of over 70 fully instrumented aircraft, operate from 23 aerobases across Australia and our pilots annually fly the equivalent of 34 round trips to the moon! 

We also now have customised vehicles built expressly for dental care, eye care and patient road transport. 

We've come a long way since that first flight in 1928 when the Flying Doctor became airborne!

Australian 20 dollar bill

Fittingly, in 1994 the Australian Council Office collaborated with the Reserve Bank of Australia on the design of the Australian twenty dollar note, which now features the face of the Reverend John Flynn.

Graphic: RFDS logo

Our Logo

Since 1928 the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia has transformed its logo eight times to reflect the changing nature of the Service and to modernize its look.

The logo used today represents a refinement of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia's symbol as it has evolved over the decades. It provides a simplified version of the various elements within the past logos with a strong use of colour and symbolism. It also acknowledges historical associations with earlier logos by retaining the traditional symbols of medicine (the caduceus), aviation (wings) and the map of Australia. The wings have been softened to better express the sense of caring and protective mantle of safety (compared with the militaristic association of earlier eagle's wings), and the brand mark has been placed underneath to more clearly identify the organisation.

You can see a full history of the logo here.

Flynn sitting on a fence

Flynn once said

"If you start something worthwhile - nothing can stop it",

and this simple truth is evidenced by the RFDS today, almost 90 years on.

Discover more about the Flying Doctor today