Birdsville Races anyone?

Involvement with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Queensland Section by the Rotary e-club of NextGen, now 14 months since Charter, began as a result of seeking medical kits for a proposed August 2014 Holiday Tag Along Tour from Goondiwindi west of Brisbane through Burke, Broken Hill, Port Augusta, Coober Pedy, Ayres Rock, Alice Springs, Tenant Creek, Mt Isa, Longreach and back.  The Flying Doctor relationship resulted in us asking them if they need physical assistance as Rotary is not a bank. We agreed on a 5 year service arrangement which began with providing quality food at a reasonable price at the Birdsville races as well as helping staff the Flying Doctor Cocktail Party on the Thursday evening at the races.

The e-club is planning to attend the entire race week being September 1 to 7 this year and for the next 5 years. We plan to cook 6000, 120 gram rib fillet steak-burgers with lettuce, bacon, onion, tomato in a bun, plus egg & bacon bun breakfasts and coffee. Yes, we need helpers! The logistics of getting foods 1600 km west of Brisbane is a challenge and a cost we are working on. We have volunteers coming in from radio promo on the Gold Coast, RDU, magazines and word of mouth. We are working with the Rotary Districts of the Birdsville region. We are experiencing great respect for the combination of Flying Doctor and Rotary.

Birdsville is a remote Australian town! That is part of the attraction. Diamantina Council and Birdsville Race Committee run affairs. We visited Birdsville last week (23-24 August) and gained understanding and great support and recognition for our efforts.  The road from the east has about 260 km of good condition limestone gravel wide double track roadway. From Mt Isa southward there is less than 60 km of good wide unsealed road.  Camping is ‘as you arrive basis’ no bookings. The 2000 person caravan park adjoining the ‘town centre’ will fill usually by the weekend before, they advise. Overflow is free camping on the edge of town on council graded open land on the banks of the Diamantina on the way to the race track. It will have many porta-toilets, garbage and dump points daily serviced by Veolia contractors. Most of the town is closed to vehicles and is licensed. Fuel and refreshments are plenty. Bring your favourite drinking water or enjoy the healthy bore water. The only grass is on the watered oval beside our site and upon which Brolga graze! The rest is sandy surface at all the camping spots including much of the van park. You may wish to bring a toilet/shower tent and fittings but the dust is actually quite clean! We are in the Simpson desert remember! Note there is no ‘supermarket’ for the regular 120 inhabitants of Birdsville. The fuel places have the normal provisions. So all human nourishment is brought in for the race week. The actual horse races are on Friday and Saturday but action hots up from Wednesday on.

Our sales site is partly under the roof and therefore adjoining the main information centre. We have single and 3 phase power and town water to our site. Toilets are 30 metres away near the visitor centre entrance. We are about 350 metres from the Birdsville Pub and Brophy’s boxing tent will be 200 metres away. The airport runway starts on the corner beside these ‘institutions’. You gotta see it to believe it. Oh yes, the roads in downtown are sealed.

After Birdsville the e-club will commence renovations on several Flying Doctor houses in Mt Isa, just like a Project Volunteer (FAIM ) project. We require similar registration of all participants as the projects are being registered with RAWCS. Volunteers, Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike are volunteering to attend and all will be required to comply with food handly regulations at Birdsville (Yes, they have an inspector) and everyone must sign in and out. At Mt Isa registration will also be required. Quite a deal of the work is painting, pressure hosing, minor repairs and landscaping. At Mt Isa one of the empty houses is available to live in at no charge and base from as well as one van park is offering $50 weekly rate due to our serving the Flying Doctor.

Many people have Birdsville races on their bucket list. Many Rotarians know of our great work helping neighbouring countries. This service arrangement allows for all this and the fun that goes with meeting and working with new friends within Australia to further the ideals of John Flynn, the Flying Doctor and our people who settle our bush. In the evenings after a fun day stories will be shared in more detail about the background to this very special opportunity to travel with a purpose, see our country, its heart and interact with the people that make it pump.

If you are interested in joining us please contact Ian Yarker.