As the national monument to the life-saving Royal Flying Doctor Service and the community foresight that built it was celebrated on Thursday evening, Cloncurry Shire Council mayor, Greg Campbell, foreshadowed a closer collaboration with fellow aviation museum, the Qantas Founders Museum.
He was speaking at the 30th anniversary dinner of the sweltering October day when the Duke and Duchess of York came to Queensland’s north west to open Cloncurry’s gift to Australia, John Flynn Place.
Their visit marked the beginning of a story that’s since been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people from around Australia and the world.
Thursday’s Dinner Under the Stars, attended by 80, recalled the heady days of the 1980s when community development was in full swing – the memorial park to Mary Kathleen was underway and the Landsborough Highway to the east had been fully sealed – and Australia was getting ready to celebrate 200 years of European settlement.
It was reminiscent of the spirit that Qantas, Australia’s national airline, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, were born out of, in Queensland’s north west, in the 1920s.
Former John Flynn Place founding committee member, Ian Rose, told the dinner gathering that it was an exciting time in the shire.
“I went to the first public meeting in 1983 – all the clubs wanted something but the anchor was the ongoing celebration of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, John Flynn and his successors,” he said.
“We knew it had to fit with the aims of the bicentennial authority for the best chance of success.
“There was huge community support – people saw it as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build this type of infrastructure.”
He also said that while the creation of John Flynn Place was born out of community need, the permanence of the monument now rested with the Cloncurry Shire Council, albeit with ongoing community support.
Mayor, Greg Campbell, said the public was introduced to the story of the aero-medical retrieval service when they toured the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, as they used Qantas planes for the first 10 years of their existence.
“But they need to come to John Flynn Place to hear the whole story,” he said. “We would love to get them on board more with us.”
Did you know we are one of Australia's biggest and busiest airlines? It's not surprising when you see our live flight map this afternoon, our crews are in the air delivering healthcare Australia wide! #RFDS90https://t.co/vtMiqXnD2Jpic.twitter.com/WvxFyjTlzw— Royal Flying Doctor (@RoyalFlyingDoc) May 31, 2018
He acknowledged that tourism was now a key economic driver for the region, along with mining and primary production, and said the building and its message would be a key tourist attraction well into the future.
A meal outlet to cater for tourist needs is among plans to cement that vision, according to Friends of John Flynn Place president, Don McDonald, speaking on the night.
He said that 30 years on from the “red hot day” that Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson sweated through, the facility was still flourishing, thanks to many upgrades to cater for emerging tastes and technology.
“What you see today is very different to what we opened 30 years ago but that’s good, it’s a much more imaginative way of telling the story nowadays,” he said.
Mr McDonald acknowledged the ongoing support from the region’s mining companies in making the upgrades possible.
“Cloncurry then was smaller than it is now, and it didn’t have all the mining around,” he said. “But we ended up with something better than a tin shed.”