By Sally Heathcote
As the Queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee last weekend some people may have forgotten that she visited Broken Hill in the very early days of her reign in 1954 and the significance this has for one of our most beloved institutions.
On the 18 March 1954 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh flew into Broken Hill for just a few hours and were met by streets decorated with flags and banners and a crowd estimated to be up to 40,000.
Patients were wheeled out on to the hospital lawns and many people were given the day off work to cheer and wave as the royal couple made their way down Argent Street in an open vehicle accompanied by marching bands.
The Queen’s major activity of the day (although she also made a comfort stop at a Zinc Corporation guest house) was a visit to the Flying Doctor Service where she spoke over the wireless to an apparently nervous Mrs Mitchell from Muloorina, on Lake Eyre.
In a later speech she praised the people of Broken Hill and of the outback for their fortitude, courage, humour, and friendliness.
Most importantly during her visit the Queen granted the Flying Doctor Service with a royal charter, the right to use the prefix ‘royal’ becoming the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) we still know today.
This brought immediate international attention both to Broken Hill and to the then pioneering work of the RFDS.