In the Australian Outback, there’s a School of the Air and also the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Both were established because people living in these remote and isolated conditions lack medical services and educational services. We also learned the meaning behind the song “Waltzing Matilda”.
The School of the Air is the largest classroom in the world serving over 521,000 square miles, double the size of Texas. Enrolment is for pre-school, primary, and middle.
It provides educational materials and personal communication with parents and home tudors. It began using radio to provide education for these children but now use satellite, email, and home tutors. We watched a teacher doing a class live with students from a studio in Alice Springs.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service is an air ambulance service for these people. They take the finest care to the furthest corners so that any who lives, works, or travels in the remote areas of the Outback can enjoy the best of health.
We toured the inside of one of these planes.
We also saw a live map of where these planes were currently serving throughout Australia.
That evening, we went to a Bush Bar-B-Q where the cooking was done in dutch ovens near a banked fire. We also learned about the stories behind some of their more familiar folk ballads.
Did you know that “Waltzing Matilda” was a story about a drifter (or swagman) who was waltzing with his matilda (his bedroll or swag) one lonely night by a billabong, a pond while waiting for his billy to boil. His billy was a pot.
Anyway, he killed a jambuck, a sheep, which belonged to someone else. When three police came for him, he fled into the pond and drowned.
The singer also said that “waltzing matilda” has a double meaning, as the drifter carries or this thing he calls matilda on his back as he wanders from place to place. So now you know the rest of the story.
The singer said that many Australians believe it should be their national anthem, but folks are worried that a national anthem about a drifter who commits suicide may not be entirely appropriate.
Still, though, it is a beautiful song; and it was a wonderful evening.