RFDS customer service assistant Mitchell Stennett

From tourist to team member: How an RFDS visitor experience helped Mitchell spread his wings

Date published

29 Aug 2023

In 2019, after visiting the RFDS Darwin Tourist Facility for the first time, Mitchell Stennett became enamoured by stories of the Flying Doctor and the Bombing of Darwin.

Drawn to the history and interactive displays, Mitchell was eager to learn more about how he could get involved and support the RFDS.

At the time, the then 19-year-old had just finished school and was a client of WISE Employment, a Disability Employment Services provider.

“Mitchell first came here with his family and loved the aircraft and the whole experience,” RFDS Darwin Tourist Facility Coordinator Nerida Atkins said.

“He and his mother approached our manager, as he was really keen to explore employment opportunities… and the rest is history.”

Shortly after the visit, the RFDS supported Mitchell to join the team as a part-time Customer Service Assistant and he has never looked back.

Every Wednesday, he proudly dons his RFDS badge and uniform, supporting the team with a range of tasks from labelling, stocktake, cleaning and engaging with the many visitors that come through the doors.

“When I first get in, I wipe the rails and check on the virtual reality headsets, and then it’s just helping the customers,” he said.

“There’s so much to see and do here and people are always interested in learning about the backstory of the RFDS.

“It’s good to interact with people, show them around and help them out in the best way I can. “We have visitors not just from Australia, but overseas – Europe, Asia, America, so I learn a lot.”

RFDS customer service assistant Mitchell Stennett
Photo: Mitchell at the RFDS Darwin Tourist Facility.

Mitchell’s initial months gave him a chance to try different tasks, interact with new people, and get an indication of whether the role was something he wanted to pursue long term.

Today, he’s found his niche – working in the gift shop helping tourists pick out and purchase their cherished Flying Doctor and Darwin memorabilia at the end of tours.

“Mitchell always has a bright, smiley and happy face and never misses a day. He genuinely loves working with all the visitors here,” Nerida said.

“When he first arrived, he was quite shy, but he’s grown a lot in confidence. He’s a fantastic asset to our wonderful team.”

While well versed in all the RFDS products, Mitchell is the first to admit he isn’t one for the glitzier accessories sold at the facility.

“Giving people information on our earrings – that’s probably not my strong point,” he laughed.

“But I try my best.”

RFDS customer service assistant Mitchell Stennett
Photo: Mitchell's become an expert in the RFDS gift shop, just not the jewellery!

Territory tourism boost >

After a couple of years of uncertainty due to COVID-19, the RFDS Darwin and Alice Springs Tourist Facilities recently enjoyed the busiest 12 months on record, welcoming more than 80,000 people through the doors.

Visitors gain insights into the operational challenges of delivering health care to the outback, the skill and commitment of the medical professionals who navigate these challenges daily, and stories from remote communities who rely on the RFDS as a lifeline during medical crises.

These narratives humanise the statistics, forging a vital connection between visitors and those who rely on the RFDS's services.

Beyond the educational aspects, the RFDS Tourist Facilities contribute significantly to the financial sustainability of the RFDS, with the funds generated from visitor contributions and merchandise sales directly supporting its life-saving operations.

Last year, the tourist facilities together generated a net profit of more than $500,000 towards the RFDS's capital-raising program for replacement aircraft, medical equipment and other major capital initiatives.

Visiting the Territory?

Make sure you check out our Tourist Facilities for the full Flying Doctor experience!

Darwin Tourist Facility
7 days, 9:00am – 5:00pm (Last entry at 4:00pm)

Alice Springs Tourist Facility
Monday – Saturday, 9:30am – 2:30pm

RFDS Alice Springs Tourist Facility
Photo: RFDS Alice Springs Tourist Facility has also been bustling with visitors this year.