The Flying Doctor 90 years on

Ms Lauren Gale1

1Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, Kingston, ACT


This year, the RFDS celebrates 90 years of delivering essential health services to rural and remote Australians, and our research shows these services are still needed now more than ever.

In 2015, the RFDS established a Research and Policy Unit, tasked with gathering national RFDS and broader population data about rural health inequities, and identifying gaps in service access for those living in remote and rural areas. This presentation will look at the findings of this research, the way the RFDS has grown over time to be much more than a flying doctor, and the journey of the RFDS to implementing evidence-based programs.

The RFDS has now released six policy research papers, on topics including oral health (March 2015) and mental health (March 2017) outcomes and access to services in rural and remote areas, each of which demonstrate the persistent and significant disparities in service access and health outcomes of those in remote and rural Australia. Based on this evidence and supported by the RFDS’s innovative Service Planning and Operational Tool (SPOT),. which maps existing services in remote and rural Australia overlayed with population data, the RFDS has been focused on developing, recommending and advocating policy solutions to improve service access for remote and rural Australians.

Based on the evidence presented in these policy research papers as the foundation for engagement with the Commonwealth government, the RFDS has been successful in the last two Federal Budgets in securing new funding for national oral health and mental health programs. This presentation will briefly outline the findings of these reports, the use of SPOT, and through the framework of the policy cycle, and the current task of implementing evidence-based policies through these two new programs.


Lauren is the Director of Programs & Policy for the RFDS, responsible for leading the Research and Policy Unit.
Lauren was previously a Policy Adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet with responsibility areas including rural health, mental health, indigenous health and women’s health.
Lauren completed a Master of Public Policy (Social Policy) at the Australian National University in 2013 and previously completed a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (Hons.) at the University of Sydney, including an honours thesis on Australian rural health policy and persistent health workforce shortages in rural areas.