Australia’s frontier legend is alive and well, as is John Flynn’s contribution to it in these two new books. In Australia’s Flying Doctors, Richard Woldendorp’s glorious photographs celebrate a medical service that reaches about eighty per cent of the vast Australian landmass. They are complemented by Roger McDonald’s economical personal vignettes of outback spirit.
The outback frontier is at its most archetypal in a crisis. The Flying Doctor medical team meets distance, isolation and fear of death in unlikely landscapes from Cape York to Tasmania and back to the Bungle Bungles. It is not just doctors who are ‘heroes’, but nurses and pilots, even one aircraft maintenance engineer seconded at short notice to pull apart a meat mincer in which a shearer’s cook caught her hand. The Flying Doctor is generally, but not always, appreciated. McDonald reminds us that some fiercely independent bushmen do not welcome help in time of trouble.