In July, Karyn – part of our Customer Sales team in New Zealand – ventured to the Outback of Australia for the first time on our Globus ‘Gems of the Red Centre’ tour.
Coming in to land at Alice Springs airport, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this little city in the desert. The view from the window was of an expanse of the red dirt that I was expecting, but also of a unique rocky and mountainous landscape. This was the first of many delights in Alice Springs, a true gem in the Red Centre.
Originally the township was known as Stuart, named after the explorer John McDougall Stuart, who discovered and mapped its location. Alice Springs then began its life as home to a repeater station on the telegraph line. This linked the continent of Australia to the rest of the world via Darwin. It was informally named ‘Alice Springs’ after the wife of Sir Charles Todd, the Superintendent of Telegraphs, but was made official in 1933.
This rich history extends to several of the attractions in Alice Springs: the Royal Flying Doctors Service, the School of the Air, and Standley Chasm.
The Royal Flying Doctors Service
In the early 1900’s, Reverend John Flynn was commissioned by the Presbyterian Church to look after the needs of those living in the Outback. He had some experience working with rural and remote locations when completing missionary work. During his life, he had heard tragic stories of bush settlers and recounted many of these during public speaking engagements. After one talk, a young pilot, Clifford Peel, wrote a letter to Rev. Flynn explaining that he had seen a missionary doctor visit remote patients by airplane in Victoria. Peel included cost estimates and Rev. Flynn published the idea in his church’s newsletter…and as they say, the rest was history.
From its small beginnings, success grew. Bestowed with the Royal Seal in 1955, the Royal Flying Doctors Service now provides a range of services from emergency flights and land transport, primary health clinics, tele-health consultations via video, radio or telephone and education scholarships. A visit to its Tourist Facility is a must when in Alice Springs to learn more, but also to assist in the fundraising efforts that keep this service operating.
The School of the Air
The School of the Air began as the brainchild of Adelaide Miethke. Miethke was the Council Member of the Flying Doctors and noted that children lacked access to education and social activities when visiting remote cattle stations. She later heard about a nurse who gave a health presentation to outback women via FDS radio and approached Rev. Flynn for permission to use his radio network to begin a trial in 1950. One year later, the School of the Air successfully began!
The school has come a long way, from three 30-minute lessons per week to providing daily classes online from four video studios. A tour of the Visitors Centre gives you a chance to see the teachers in action (if visiting during the school week), see and hear some of the original radio equipment, view some of the art projects that former and current students have completed, and even purchase books or art supplies to donate to the school library.
A visit to Alice Springs would not be complete without seeing Standley Chasm! It is traditionally known as Angkerle Atwatye, meaning ‘Gap of Water’, and is an 80-metre-high gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges. The gorge has been carved out of the sandstone over millions of years and displays a full rainbow of reds and oranges on its walls. This is a special site for the local Western Arrernte people (as a sacred site of women’s dreaming) and it was a privilege to be shown some of the local flora and fauna by a traditional guide. To learn how each plant is identified and used for bush tucker or traditional medicines gives this beautiful place another dimension.
Overall, my visit to Alice Springs was interesting, historical, beautiful and inspiring. It is a place I will never forget and one that you should absolutely visit! Experience the Outback on the 6-day Globus ‘Gems of the Red Centre’ tour today.