Graphic: Car #1928
An enthusiastic troop of 24 pre-1985 model 'bash' cars and 4WD support vehicles have completed a gruelling eight-day journey through the Australian outback to raise funds for the RFDS.
The 25th OZ Outback Odyssey departed Adelaide in mid-July in convoy to tackle the 4,000-kilometre trek over some of the country's toughest terrain – following some of the footsteps of Burke & Wills – before resting at its final destination at Port Douglas in Queensland.
The trip was full of driving time trials, personal challenges and fundraising, concluding with a final dinner and charity auction to cap off the fundraising effort and presentation of driver awards – both serious and humorous – from the week.
Graphic: Jono's head shave
Photo: RFDS' Charlie Paterson shaves the head (mohawk style) of our 'good sport' event sponsor, Jono Crawford, CMV Truck Sales, to raise money for the Flying Doctor.
OZ Outback Odyssey Chairman and event participant, Keith Finch, said this year's event raised $140,000 for the RFDS - taking its overall tally from previous years' event to a whopping $500,000.
"As always, there was a great deal of support for us and our fundraising for the RFDS before the event and along the way, but equally as important was the economic benefit to outback communities through event catering and donations for community groups, as well as fuel, beverage and tourism sales," he said.
"All of the cars made it in the end to Port Douglas," Keith said. "The nine-day journey took in destinations such as the Flinders Ranges, the 'inland' Birdsville Track to Birdsville and 'Big Red' before traversing through western Queensland taking in Boulia, Cloncurry, Burketown and into Karumba," he said.
Keith, who has embarked on the Odyssey since 1994, said there was great camaraderie among the group – long-standing and newcomers alike – and plans for next year's event (Adelaide to Sunshine Coast) were already underway.
It was the fourth year the event had been a major fundraiser for the RFDS and, for the second time, the RFDS entered its own car. RFDS Central Operations General Manager of Marketing & PR, Charlie Paterson, was one of four entrants in 'Car 1928' – a 1970 Ford Fairlane numbered after the year the service was founded by Reverend John Flynn.
"We made a decision, at a personal level, to get involved with the event and support an event that's supporting the RFDS," Charlie said.
"The best way to see Australia is to drive it. A highlight was visiting John Flynn Place in Cloncurry, the birthplace of the Flying Doctor," he said.
"The fundraising we (RFDS) do is just as vital as the services we provide because we rely on donations and the support of the community to meet the shortfall in our operational funding and to finance our capital-raising for the replacement of our medically-equipped aircraft.
Graphic: Car 1934
Visiting various stations and roadhouses for lunches and dinners, they heard plenty of stories illustrating the importance of the RFDS.
"Every day somebody walked up, put money in the tin and said 'if it wasn't for the Flying Doctor, I wouldn't be here'," Charlie said.
"As you'd expect driving through some of the most remote parts of Australia, where the RFDS is a lifeblood, we met people every day and they shared their stories."
Major sponsor of this year's event was CMV Truck Sales.