Jane Oakley- Lohm with her daughter

#84 How did the remote SA township of Marla come to be?

Date published

29 Mar 2024
Jane Oakley- Lohm with her daughter

Flying Doctor Podcast #84

Burning hot days, cold desert nights, dust storms and endless isolation are all part and parcel of living in the remote South Australian outback. 

When Melbourne born Jane first met her husband, Greg Oakley, he already had grand plans to build a roadhouse and hotel for outback travelers and tour companies travelling the remote and often treacherous Stuart Highway, between Coober Pedy and Alice Springs. 

She describes the central role of the hotel and roadhouse in such remote townships, which often become the hub of activity and essential services for travelers and locals alike.

jane oakley marla giving the children a break on the old stuart highway on a 12 hour road trip to Adelaide

Located in South Australia’s northwest, some 1000km north west of Adelaide and around 400km south of Alice Springs, Marla Traveller’s Rest remains a popular outback stop-over for adventurers and tourists today, as well as a stop-over point for the famous Ghan railway network.  

But during its early days of development in the 1980’s, Marla was also home to a well maintained RFDS runway and offered a monthly stopover point for RFDS staff heading to remote outback bases and communities.  

Managing a busy roadhouse and hotel, Jane and her husband often had up to 40 staff working for them, as well as having to meet the demands of an ever-growing Marla township and all the workers who were helping to build it.

jane oakly #85 and her daughters in more recent times

Throughout the episode, Jane touches on the challenges of living in such an extreme environment, from the intense heat and dust storms to the isolation from medical services. 

She shares personal stories, including her own experiences with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) during medical emergencies.

Jane offers advice to those embarking on road trips in remote Australia, emphasizing the importance of preparation and safety. 

She reflects on the lasting impact of her time in Marla and her continued connection to the red dirt, which she plans to revisit soon.