An idea turns into a legacy
Outback families owe much to the invention of the pedal radio by Alfred Traeger in 1929. Not only did this new technology bring life-saving
services like the Royal Flying Doctor but it helped families feel less isolated and more connected to each other and their family, friends
and colleagues living in towns and cities.
A visit to Alice Springs in 1944 by Miss Adelaide Miethke, a member of the Flying Doctor Service of South Australia, saw an idea hatch. On a
visit to a remote cattle station, she recognised the difficulties outback families were facing with correspondence lessons and that children
were lacking social contact with their peers. It occurred to her that the radio technology used by the Flying Doctors could help by
enabling teachers to give lessons over the radio.
Miss Miethke suggested the idea and together with the Flying Doctor Service, the Northern Territory Education Department and Alice Springs
Higher Primary School, set in motion the School of the Air in Alice Springs - the first of its kind in the world.
Special communications equipment had to be sent to remote families and permissions sought, but after a long wait a trial began in 1950. A
landline was laid from the Flying Doctor base in Alice Springs to the Alice Springs Higher Primary School and teachers volunteered their
time to teach the radio lessons. With fun and laughter, teachers took turns to present specially prepared scripts to Outback children with
the help of radio staff and the Flying Doctor base.