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16 June, 2021

Bringing people together from near and far

THE Royal Flying Doctors Service has touched the hearts and minds of countless Australians in their worst times, Joan and Toby Atkinson are no exception.

By Rhys Thomas

Toby and Joan Atkinson never dreamed that when they started the Royal Flying Doctor Service Near and Far Auxiliary that it would grow to be what is it today

THE Royal Flying Doctors Service has touched the hearts and minds of countless Australians in their worst times, Joan and Toby Atkinson are no exception. 

The couple had their first brush with the RDFS while living out on their early lives on their Lincoln Springs property in the Upper Burdekin area. 

In the early 70’s, Bronwyn, the Atkinson’s 11-year-old daughter, had quite a severe accident whilst riding her horse along a fence line ending up with a massive tear underneath her armpit. 

“The top wire was barbed and she laid all the barbs flat for seven feet along the top wire with her armpit,” Toby said. 

“That made a pretty fair mess of things. 

“I got her off , lifted her arm up and I could actually see her lungs.”

After making the plea to the flying doctors over the two-way radio they arrived at the property to treat Bronwyn within a matter of hours. 

Upon seeing the severity of the wound the doctor advised the Atkinson’s that she was unfit for travel and had to be treated at the station. 

“When he finished he said, ‘If we take her back to the hospital for sure she will pick up a hospital infection with a wound like this’,” Toby said.

“He said she’d be much safer left out here in the bush.” 

Before the accident both Joan and Toby were involved in the RFDS whether it be through small fundraising events or volunteering. 

Now having the RFDS impact the family in such a way, Joan and Toby had decided to take their support a step further. 

First supporting Bronwyn in her successful bid to become the Queen of the Outback, with all the money raised going directly to the RFDS. 

Afterwards, due to their continuous support to the RFDS Joan and Toby were advised to create their own auxiliary as they had brought people together from near and far, hence, the RFDS Near and Far Auxiliary was founded.

Years later the Atkinsons, now in their 80s, have taken a step back from the auxiliary and have taken on more advisory roles. 

“We thought at the beginning we would only have six or 10 members and now it’s many times that,” Joan said. 

“It give you a lovely feeling that you’ve been able to do something worthwhile,” Toby added. 

Joan and Toby have now decided to relocate down to Charters Towers after living in Kairi to be with their family. 

Most of their family now lives in and around the Charters Towers area, including their daughter Bronwyn whose unfortunate accident gave birth to one of Australia’s most successful RFDS auxiliaries.  

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