Royal Flying Doctor Service: Nurse, fundraiser share their stories

IF you're looking for innovation, strength and resourcefulness then look no further than the women of regional Australia.

They are often at the forefront of their communities and the contributions they make are as varied as the landscapes that they call home.

Dubbo woman Laurinne Campbell is one of those people and her actions change lives every single day.

She grew up on a remote cattle property in north-west NSW and a serious horse accident that saw her father airlifted out by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) set in motion a chain of events that changed her life.

"I always knew I wanted to be a nurse and then when that happened I was 'right I want to work with these guys, I want to be a part of something real and something big that makes a huge difference and gives great confidence to people in regional Australia, particularly in outback areas'," she said.

I want to be a part of something real and something big that makes a huge difference and gives great confidence to people in regional Australia, particularly in outback areas.

Royal Flying Doctor Service clinical nurse specialist and mental health professional Laurinne Campbell

These days, Ms Campbell is a clinical nurse specialist and mental health professional with the RFDS, the very same service that saved her Dad's life all those years ago.

When she started in the job 18 months ago, she brought 40 years of nursing experience and a passion for the health and wellbeing of farmers, and especially of women who she said are often the glue that hold it all together.

Her job is based out of Dubbo and while Ms Campbell has only been in the role a short while, she unreservedly declares: "I'm living my dream".

"When you're working in mental health every day is different and very colourful, but times that by another 100 when you're with the RFDS," she said.

Unfortunately, the crippling drought is having a huge impact on mental health and suicide rates of people in regional Australia.

"Sadly, we are seeing that across the board for all ages groups. It's not just adults or farmers, it's the young children of farmers who are impacted, it is business houses, it's many in rural NSW," Ms Campbell said.

ROYAL VISIT: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their visit to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Dubbo in October, 2018. Click on photo for more pictures. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

ROYAL VISIT: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their visit to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Dubbo in October, 2018. Click on photo for more pictures. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

"We definitely are seeing a huge need to respond to people who are experiencing significant mental health issues."

Ms Campbell praised the women she helps who live in some of the most far-flung and remote corners of Australia.

"It's such a wonderful experience to be able to connect with such dynamic and resilient women who are business houses themselves," she said.

It's such a wonderful experience to be able to connect with such dynamic and resilient women who are business houses themselves.

Royal Flying Doctor Service clinical nurse specialist and mental health professional Laurinne Campbell

"They're mothers, they're sisters, they're aunts, they're wives, they're business partners, they're incredibly strategic and resourceful, very innovative.

"To be a part of their network and keeping them well and supporting them to keep their family well and their business strong is a very exciting thing to do."

Another woman keen to help not just her own community, but regional Australians across the country is Carol Holden.

HERE TO HELP: Royal Flying Doctor Service Broken Hill Women's Auxiliary president Carol Holden. Photo: SUPPLIED

HERE TO HELP: Royal Flying Doctor Service Broken Hill Women's Auxiliary president Carol Holden. Photo: SUPPLIED

She may have lived her first two decades in the quintessential backpackers hotspot of Sydney's Bondi Beach, but the outback is now well and truly in her blood.

At 25 years of age she moved to Broken Hill with her family after her policeman father was transferred there in 1969.

Last year, Mrs Holden was part of a group of just 28 women who managed to raise a whopping $90,000 to support the RFDS in Broken Hill.

As president of the RFDS Broken Hill Women's Auxiliary, she helps orchestrate fundraisers during the year, but the biggest is their annual Christmas pudding drive.

The first year of the drive was in 1956 and back then members made 75 puddings for their fundraiser.

Since then, the popularity has grown and last year more than 2000 were made which were purchased by people locally and across Australia.

The puddings are so well known and loved in the local community, that one was included in a gift bag that was presented to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their visit to Dubbo in October last year.

Mrs Holden said the entire $90,000 raised was spent supporting RFDS operation in Broken Hill.

"We had enough to buy two 'Doctors on a Wall'. They keep it in the [RFDS] clinics and it records all the patients' medical details. They're worth $35,000 each," Mrs Holden said.

With the rest of the funds raised, they helped kit out the RFDS' new hanger at the town's airport.

Broken Hill may be located a stone's throw (30 minutes) from the South Australian border, but Mrs Holden said like many regional locations it offered something cities could not.

"There's peace and serenity in the country," she said.

Facts and figures

The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides primary healthcare and emergency services to those that live, work and travel across the 7.7 million square kilometres of Australia.

During the past 12 months there were:

  • 335,125 patient contacts through RFDS clinics, aeromedical transports and telehealth consultations
  • 88,188 patients in rural and remote areas used RFDS telehealth services
  • 16,209 nurse, GP and Dental clinics were conducted across Australia
  • 21,828 episodes of dental care
  • 71 aircraft travelled a total of 26,863,558 kilometres.
This story Two women at the heart of the Royal Flying Doctor Service first appeared on Daily Liberal.