Your Flying Doctor I Autumn 2024 Edition

Page 1


Propel us forward

In this edition 3

Road to recovery


Trains, planes & the RFDS


Ella’s outback dash


Flying Doctor Day


The flying nurse

10 A life of service 12 Small bag, big help 13 Meet Dan Byles 14 Incredible community support 15 Recipes from our family to yours Cover photo: Michael Smart Back cover photo: Chuck Thomas, Remote Digital Imagery Acknowledgements: Thank you to the RFDS staff, patients and members of our community for the photographs and stories in this publication.

2023 key statistics 10,270 patients retrieved

8,779,000 kms flown

23,000+ hours in the air

17,145 landings 17 Pilatus PC-12 Flying Intensive Care Units 3 Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 jets 2 RFDS Fortescue Heli-Med Service EC145 Helicopters


To our wonderful supporters 2024 is set to be a busy and exciting year for the RFDS in Western Australia. We are rolling up our sleeves and beginning work on our new five-year strategy, taking us up to our centenary in 2028. The strategy is called Above and Beyond and gives our team and supporters a clear view of our future direction, as we continue to play our part in improving the health and wellbeing of people in regional WA. To make lasting change, we will work in partnership at every level with our supporters, communities, business and government to reach common goals and make a positive impact on the health of regional Western Australians. As part of the new strategy, we will expand our services to provide more everyday healthcare like GP appointments in some of WA’s most remote locations. Later this year the RFDS will open our first brick-and-mortar GP clinic in Kalgoorlie. We want to work with local providers all over the state to expand services and offer greater dental, mental health and allied health support where it’s needed most. 2023 was our busiest year on record, transferring 10,270 patients to care. That’s an average of 28 people every single day. In order to meet this increased demand, in January we placed an order for nine new aeromedical aircraft which are due to begin arriving in 2025. It is an exciting time for the RFDS and we are so grateful for your support. We look forward to keeping you informed. It is people like you who help the RFDS go above and beyond. Yours sincerely

Judith Barker ASM CEO, RFDS Western Operations

Road to recovery Bella Howe’s life changed on a wild winter’s day in July 2022. She was a spectator at a dirt bike race in the Wheatbelt town of Brookton when a rider lost control on a jump. The dirt bike hit an embankment and flipped, hitting Bella in the head, instantly knocking her out. The medic on scene rushed to give CPR. Bella was taken to Pingelly Hospital via ambulance and the RFDS was called, with Bella classified as a Priority 1 patient. Unfortunately, low cloud cover made visibility dangerous and the option to retrieve her via helicopter was halted. A decision was made to transport Bella to Perth via road ambulance, using RFDS’s dedicated road vehicle. Driver Pete Ricketts recalls taking the RFDS crew to retrieve Bella. “The weather was the worst I have seen it - hailstones, fog, driving rain, all the way to Pingelly with lights and sirens on,” he said. It took three hours for critically injured Bella, who was by now intubated and in a medically induced

coma, to be stable enough for the drive to Royal Perth Hospital (RPH). Once admitted to ICU, the team at RPH worked to improve Bella’s breathing, as well as drain bleeding on the brain. Scans showed Bella had a fracture at the base of her skull as well as trauma to the brain.

The doctors told my mum there was only a one in five chance of me waking up, and that if I did, I could be in a vegetative state, and not be able to talk or walk again.

But the odds were in Bella’s favour, and after 10 days she was brought out of the coma. With the support of therapists, Bella was quickly walking and talking again. After five weeks at RPH, Bella was moved to

Fiona Stanley Hospital for another five weeks of rehabilitation. Bella laughingly credits her stubborn nature for her impressive recovery. Fourteen months after being told Bella may not survive, Bella’s family celebrated her 21st birthday in Bali. Now back to driving, running and horseriding, she still experiences occasional dizziness and vertigo, but is busy studying to become a personal trainer. Fitness became a passion as she worked hard to regain strength on her left side. “It would be really rewarding for me to work with people who’ve been through a similar situation to me and help them get stronger and better,” Bella said. RFDS driver Pete was thrilled to find out Bella has recovered so well. “She’s a young lady who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and now she has her whole life ahead of her,” he said. “To think of how she was when we collected her to where she is now, it’s the icing on the cake for my long RFDS career.”

Photo credit: Clip Media

The RFDS is a free service. It doesn’t matter where you are in regional WA, the Flying Doctor is there to help in a medical emergency. Donate at: 3

Trains, planes & the RFDS Doctor Jig is accustomed to working inside the tight space of an RFDS aircraft, but one retrieval saw him treating an unwell passenger within the confines of the iconic Indian Pacific train.

Eighty-six-year-old Terry Woodroffe was excited to board the Indian Pacific in Perth, after his original booking on the cross-country train was cancelled during the height of the pandemic. But within hours of leaving Perth, he became gravely ill. The train made an emergency stop at the remote Rawlinna station, 380 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie, so that the RFDS could transport Terry to hospital.


An off-duty anaesthetist from Adelaide happened to be on board the train and took charge until the RFDS arrived. He and Jig spoke by phone, with the anaesthetist warning he didn’t think Terry was going to survive because he was struggling to breathe. The Pilatus PC-12 landed about half a kilometre from the station, and Jig, Retrieval Nurse Janice and Line Pilot Lance were driven in a ute to the train. Jig had to think on his feet. “I had to identify what level of care was appropriate, and getting hold of the passenger’s next of kin was a challenge. Then we had to navigate how to get the patient off the train, onto the ute and onto the aircraft,” he said.

The Official Magazine of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA

The Indian Pacific staff knew removing the patient through a narrow door was going to be difficult, so before the RFDS crew had landed, they had already begun removing panels off the train. “It only created a couple of inches of space either side, but it was still useful to have that extra space,” Jig said.

There’s no right or wrong way to manage the situation – it’s about listening. The train manager has more experience in moving unwell patients off a train than any of my team had, so we all bounced ideas off each other.

The train staff also supplied a roll-up mattress to help slide Terry about 10 metres down the narrow corridor from his cabin to the train door. He was then carried down a temporary ramp, lifted onto a stretcher and then the ute, to be driven to the aircraft. “It required lots of effort, but we got there,” Jig said. “We’re used to working with a small team of three – doctor, nurse, pilot – but there was about 10 people involved in getting Terry off the train and onto the aircraft.” During the flight to Kalgoorlie, Terry received emergency treatment and by the time the plane landed his condition had improved. The next day Jig kindly stopped by the hospital to check on Terry’s progress. “I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see him in the high dependency unit, completely alert. We had a very pleasant conversation,” Jig said. Terry was treated for pneumonia, and after staying with family in Perth for several months, he has now returned home to Brisbane in good health. Scan QR code to hear Jig sharing the story.

It’s a great feeling to know that we are making a genuine difference. The alternative for Terry would have been a 12-hour road trip by ambulance, and I am fairly convinced that he would not have survived that.

With help from generous donors, people can live, work and travel in regional and remote areas of WA knowing the RFDS is here to help. Donate at: 5

Ella’s outback dash Ella Reindler is one of very few pregnant women who can say they drove themself to hospital behind the wheel of a prime mover. The Perth woman was 35 weeks pregnant when she decided to join her partner Dave for one last Kimberley adventure before starting her maternity leave. The couple run a business transporting temporary accommodation in their oversized truck.

“The RFDS crew were so quick and efficient,” said Ella. “Janet was my Retrieval Nurse and she made me feel so comfortable and at ease.” In the meantime, Dave drove their truck 16 hours from Kununurra to Broome, hoping he wouldn’t miss the birth. Fortunately, he made it to the hospital in time to be with Ella as baby Lucas entered the world.

We were in the middle of nowhere but the RFDS came to the party and helped bring our little man into the world. Lucas is definitely a little bush baby already. What a story to tell!

Despite his early arrival, Lucas had no complications and the family were able to leave hospital after four days.

They were halfway between Halls Creek and Warmun when Ella’s waters broke. “We looked at each other and thought ‘surely this can’t be it?’” Ella recalls. Dave was already exhausted after driving for 15 hours straight, so Ella climbed into the driver’s seat of the truck and headed straight for Kununurra Hospital, arriving at 3am. “They took us in and decided we’d need the RFDS to fly me to Broome Hospital for the birth.”

Help support families in regional WA. Donate today so we can be there for babies and pregnant mothers when they need us most. Donate at: 6

The Official Magazine of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA

Flying Doctor Day Wednesday 15 May 2024 Mark your calendars and get ready to help us celebrate the 96th anniversary of the Royal Flying Doctor Service! Over the past three years, Flying Doctor Day has raised over $2.5 million to help grow and support the service we provide across Western Australia. Can you help us make 2024 the biggest Flying Doctor Day yet?

How to get involved Donate: Every dollar you donate on Flying Doctor Day will be doubled by our generous matched giving partners Buy a pair of socks: Rock a pair of our special Flying Doctor Day socks available from early May Become a fundraising champion: Get your workplace, school or community group together and raise money as a team Help us spread the word: Tell your friends, share a post to your socials or start a conversation with your colleagues

For more information visit


The flying nurse Lisa Killian is an RFDS Primary Health Care Nurse based in Broome. She has lived in the Kimberley and central Australia for the past 14 years, working in a variety of nursing roles.

What is your current role and what does it involve? We fly to remote health clinics in the Kimberley on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tuesday can be a number of different locations – we visit three small Aboriginal communities and four Gibb River Road locations, including cattle stations. We usually see the staff only, but sometimes tourists

arrive with injuries that need treatment. Most appointments are for general health issues, prescription renewals or mental health concerns. The Gibb River Road locations are fun – we are fed home-cooked lunches and have sometimes been transported by a mustering chopper to the homestead because of high water. On those days I have to pinch myself that this is my job. Every Wednesday we fly to the Yakanarra community in the Fitzroy Valley. If the RFDS didn’t visit, their closest doctor would be at least a 90 minute drive away in Fitzroy Crossing. This clinic is quite busy. Patients can present with anything from ear infections to skin lesions, or needing a blood

test for chronic disease screening. We might be giving injections for diabetes or monthly treatment for rheumatic heart disease. We also bring patients their medication each week. Sometimes patients present with acute infections or injuries and can be quite unwell. Why is Primary Health Care so important? Primary Health Care focuses on preventative health care, early detection and the early management of illness and disease. This promotes wellbeing and reduces the burden of disease on the health care system. I am hoping one day we can build a Primary Health Care team that includes health promotion, Aboriginal health workers, dental and allied health. You are a midwife and child health nurse and often care for women throughout their pregnancy and beyond – how rewarding is that part of the job? It is so rewarding and it means the Yakanarra women don’t have to leave their community to have their antenatal checks or constantly re-tell their story to a stranger at each appointment. By building these relationships, the women have healthy pregnancies and we are able to intervene early if complications arise. Knowing I am their constant person also helps them to disclose difficult topics if they need to.


The Official Magazine of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA



Port Hedland

RFDS GP Clinics RFDS staff consult over 6,000 patients a year at primary health clinics across WA




I am also a lactation consultant. Many of the mothers who have had babies in my care have been able to breastfeed which is so beneficial and a preventative for many negative health outcomes. As primary health providers we should be focusing on the first 1,000 days of life - the period from conception to two years of age is such an important foundational period which shapes development and wellbeing. At 36 weeks gestation the women in this community are sent off for “sitdown“ ahead of their birth and I give them a bag of essentials like nappies, sanitary items, singlets and wraps. Once they have their baby at Broome or Derby hospital, the women always send me a photo because they know I am so excited for them. Later they know they can text me to ask when vaccinations are due or when their baby needs to be weighed.

The patients at the Yakanarra clinic clearly have a lot of trust in you – how have you created that? As the constant person attending, I can build familiarity. At Yakanarra community, a different doctor attends with me each week. Being culturally appropriate in our care is so important, as well as being non-judgemental. I also ask community elders for advice. Sadly, last year a child from Yakanarra community passed away from a mosquitoborne virus. I was advised by a nearby Aboriginal organisation that fogging and spraying for mosquitos would interrupt cultural mourning practices, but I could see the fear in the community

members about catching the disease. I met with the Yakanarra elders and asked if it would be okay to fog and spray to help prevent further transmission. The elders came to the decision that this was a priority and it would not impact their spiritual and cultural process. The Shire came with us the following week and the mosquitos were eliminated. What do you love about working in the regions? I think I have the best nursing job in WA. Who else gets to fly to places where everyone is so happy to see you? I am not stuck in an airconditioned office or hospital ward (although when it’s 45 degrees celcius in Fitzroy Valley I’d love some airconditioning), I get to use all of my skills and I am still learning so much. Seeing the landscape from the air change month to month is awesome and the pindan soil reminds me of my childhood in Port Hedland. Photo credit: Ben Broady 9

A life of service One of the original RFDS flight nurses is being remembered, after making a generous bequest following her sad passing. Born in Albany in 1920, Mabel “Mabs” Knight completed her nursing and midwifery training in Perth during the second world war. In the mid-1940s Mabs was posted to the hospital in the remote Pilbara town of Marble Bar, known for its searing temperatures. With the threat of enemy action on the coast, the RFDS base had been moved inland from Port Hedland to Marble Bar. Mabs was welcomed to the town by RFDS Doctor Harold Dicks. The aircraft used then was a small biplane with an open cockpit and a small cabin with seats for patients. Marble Bar was sparsely populated at the time, with only a small gold mine operating. The area was dominated by sprawling cattle stations. Women and children had been evacuated because of the war, and station owners were assisted by Aboriginal stockmen.


The Official Magazine of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA

There was also a military base about 30 kilometres away at Corunna Station, for both Australian and American airmen. Life wasn’t easy in Marble Bar and Mabs had to be resilient and versatile. The hospital was very basic, with power produced by a generator, cooking done on a wood stove and food kept cool in kerosene refrigerators. Mabs and two other nurses would assist Doctor Dicks, including administering anaesthetic, and it was their job to cook on the hospital cook’s day off and do laundry when the laundry lady had a break. Mabs would happily recount many interesting trips she made with Doctor Dicks to transfer patients. One was a flight to Onslow to pick up a patient with leprosy. Another time a worker at the nearby gold mine needed specialist treatment, meaning an overnight stay in Perth before returning to Marble Bar. There were often day trips to cattle stations if workers needed attention. Mabs’s family recalls that she had nothing but praise for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and considered it a privilege to work with them. Later in the 1940s she did another stint with the RFDS, this time based in Alice Springs.

Mabs spent the rest of her working life all over Australia, taking positions in every state except Tasmania and South Australia, then eventually returned to Albany to care for her ailing parents. Always up for an adventure, she also spent two years working in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In her downtime, she spent many holidays exploring WA’s North West with her friend and fellow nurse Fran Haddrill, collecting shells, bird watching and walking the beaches. She and Fran even discovered a rare species of shell, which was named in their honour. Mabs retired from nursing in 1980 and lived in the town of Denmark for 25 years, spending her time gardening and volunteering, before eventually returning to Albany. She died in December 2022, one month shy of her 103rd birthday. Mabs kindly left a generous bequest to the RFDS WA, which will go towards specialist crew training and medical equipment. Carl, Mabs’s great-nephew, says the family is in awe of the life she led. “Mabs was a strong, independent woman, in the times when girls were mostly expected to get married and have babies,” he said.

For us she was a trailblazer, a pioneer and a role model – her legacy is a life of service, to enjoy the natural world and be happy.

“It was a great honour for us to be able to hand over her bequeathment to the RFDS - an organisation that she held so dear - in memory of her wonderful life,” he said.

Leaving a Gift in Your Will Mabs Knight’s rich and adventurous life left a tremendous legacy for her own family and families in the communities she served. Her very generous bequest to the RFDS WA will help to pave the way for the Flying Doctor to continue that legacy. Gifts in Wills to the Flying Doctor are among our most important and treasured sources of funding. By including the RFDS (Western Operations) in your Will, you’ll be making a valuable commitment to help all Western Australians have access to the very best health care in one of the world’s most isolated health jurisdictions. For further information please call (08) 9417 6400 or email


Small bag, big help Imagine being told in the middle of the night that your three-year-old needs to be rushed 600 kilometres to Perth. That is exactly what happened to Kalgoorlie mum, Kim, late one Sunday evening in 2018. After falling ill earlier in the day, Kim’s son Jaydan was taken to hospital where his symptoms were assessed. The family was quickly told that Jaydan would need to be transferred by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Perth Children’s Hospital for more thorough testing. “We had a little bit of time to pack up, but so many things were going through our minds,” Kim said. “The stress of worrying about your little one, combined with worrying about boarding a flight from Kalgoorlie to Perth with barely any notice was a lot to process.” After a whole day of testing, Jaydan was diagnosed with a 600 gram tumour on his right kidney. He went straight into surgery the following day, and then started nine months of treatment in Perth. “We really didn’t expect to have to shift our lives to Perth literally overnight. In that moment, I guess

the only thing that matters is making sure your kid gets better.” Jaydan is now nine-years-old and five years in remission, but his parents have not forgotten how they felt the moment they were told he would be transferred. “It was that feeling of the complete unknown - not knowing what was about to happen to Jaydan, not knowing what we were going to do once we got to Perth. It all seemed so uncertain,” Kim said. “I wanted to do something to help ease that stress for families who find themselves in our situation.” In 2022, with the support of the Rotary Club of Boulder, Kim dropped off the first 25 Grab & Go bags to the RFDS Kalgoorlie base. The bags have all the essentials that a family may need when being transferred from a regional town to Perth including toiletries, a $25 voucher, a note pad and pen, a refillable water bottle, colouring-in booklet and even a brochure with helpful resources.

My dream for these bags is to be able to get them to every RFDS base in Western Australia, and to hopefully make the journey of patients just a little bit easier.

“We really tried to cover off all of the basics – anything that could take up your brain-space, like toothpaste, or somewhere to write down what a doctor is telling you.” In December 2023, Kim, her husband Aidan, Jaydan and his little sister Lily delivered another 25 bags to our Kalgoorlie base.

Photo credit: Kathleen Turner


The Official Magazine of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA

Meet Dan Byles Dan Byles has been the Organisational Resilience Lead for the RFDS WA since 2021. His previous career roles include Resilience Manager and Head of COVID-19 Response at Murdoch University, Strategy and Engagement Manager for the NSW Government and a Soldier and Officer in the Australian Army. Serving for 12 years in the military and retiring as a Captain, Dan fulfilled strategic planning, logistics, emergency management and operational leadership roles in Australia and overseas.

In simple terms, what is it that you do for the RFDS? I help us prepare for, respond to and recover from severe and sudden events that could harm the RFDS, its people and its patients. This could be natural hazards like tropical cyclones and floods to security threats, mass casualty incidents, a pandemic or emergencies anywhere our employees and patients may be. Alongside my team, we partner with leaders across the organisation and external stakeholders to develop response plans and deliver training and exercises so that we can be ready to manage these situations. Much of our work involves ensuring the RFDS plays its unique part alongside organisations such

Photo credit: Clip Media

as St John Ambulance, WA Police and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to provide a coordinated and integrated response to emergencies. How does your defence background help in your current role? The military focuses on considering a wide range of internal and external factors when managing operations. This has helped me look at any situation holistically to answer questions during the planning process such as ‘what are we trying to achieve?’, ‘what resources do our people need?’ and ‘what could go wrong?’. The leadership model for officers in the Australian Defence Force strongly focuses on providing team members with a clear understanding of a mission’s ‘big picture’ and empowering them with the guidance, resources and authority to complete tasks. This approach allows smart and motivated people to get on with the job within a framework of support and guidance, which fits well with how we at the RFDS can achieve our mission together amidst the dynamics and complexity of delivering remote health outcomes. My time in command roles also ingrained in me that being a leader of people is a true privilege and you must prove yourself to be worthy of such a role by leading with

influence, authenticity, diligence and compassion, rather than relying on your granted status. What attracted you to work for the RFDS? The mission to provide health equity for all Western Australians really resonates with me. I wanted to be part of a team that helps people access health care, no matter where they are. The scale and diversity of the RFDS’s capabilities and services also reminds me of the operational complexity of the Australian Defence Force. The opportunity to work for an organisation with a similar purpose was too good to ignore. What do you enjoy most about your job? The incredible importance of the work we do. I am fortunate to be able to contribute to a service that is life-changing, life-giving and often life-saving. The complexity of the RFDS’s operations in delivering services across the remote parts of WA and beyond is truly interesting and the achievements are so fulfilling when we successfully navigate challenges, pull together as a team and achieve our mission. When I arrive at the Jandakot base each morning I usually see one of our aircraft departing or arriving – it gives me that constant connection with our mission each day.

There for you. With your support the Flying Doctor is able to respond to the evolving health needs of Western Australians. Donate at: 13

Humbling community support Western Australians are very generous. We are so grateful for the support of communities across the state, from Kununurra to Esperance and everywhere in between. We have highlighted a few of the many individuals and organisations who continue to bring their community together to raise vital funds for the RFDS in WA.

Archie’s Rocks Young Kununurra entrepreneur Archie sells the unique Kimberley rocks he collects and generously donates the proceeds to the RFDS. Archie has needed a couple of retrievals over the years and wanted to find a way to give back to the service.

Shipside Grey Nomads This group of ex-navy men and women have been donating the proceeds from their annual caravanning trips to the RFDS since 2019 - totalling an impressive $24,000. In 2023, over 30 caravans headed to Denmark where the group fundraised by selling raffle tickets and cooking up a storm on the barbecue.

Oceans to Outback 2024 Anticipation is already building for the third annual Oceans to Outback fitness challenge. In 2023, more than 16,000 Australians collectively ran, walked or cycled 1,275,685 kilometres throughout the month of October. More than $3.5 million was raised for the RFDS nationally, helping us to continue to deliver lifesaving health care to rural and remote areas. To pre-register your interest for this year’s challenge go to

Boyup Brook Charity Shop Congratulations to Jane and Richard Leadbeatter who have recently retired after managing the Boyup Brook Charity Shop for five years. They raised an incredible $156,000 for the RFDS in this time. All items are donated by members of the Boyup Brook community. The Op Shop remains open with a new manager.


Pictured are some of the RFDS staff members from our Jandakot base who took part, including top fundraiser Doctor Peter Watson (fourth from right) who personally raised over $2,500 and ran 125 kilometres.

The Official Magazine of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA

Recipes from our family to yours Pumpkin Risotto and Arancini

Pilot Tom Neale from our Meekatharra base loves this risotto, which also makes the perfect base for arancini.



Pumpkin Risotto 2 tbsp olive oil 30g butter 2 cloves garlic 1 large onion, finely diced 4 rashers bacon, sliced 2 cups arborio rice 4 cups chicken stock 1kg pumpkin ½ cup grated parmesan cheese Ground black pepper Salt

Pumpkin Risotto 1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Cut half of the pumpkin into 1cm cubes, then leave the other half whole with skin on. Coat with oil and season with salt and pepper. 2. Cook the small cubes for approximately 30 minutes until slightly brown and cooked through. 3. Cook the large piece of pumpkin for 1.5-2 hours until brown and cooked through then remove skin and roughly mash. 4. Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. 5. Add garlic, onion and bacon and cook for 3 minutes. 6. Stir in the arborio rice and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until the rice changes colour slightly, stirring frequently.

Extra ingredients for arancini 1 cup flour 2 eggs 2 cups panko breadcrumbs 100g mozzarella cheese cubes Oil for frying

7. Add chicken stock gradually, approximately half a cup at a time. Stir frequently, allowing to absorb before adding more stock. Adjust consistency with more stock if required. 8. When all stock is added, remove from heat and stir through mashed pumpkin, parmesan cheese and pepper. 9. Top with cubed pumpkin and enjoy! To make arancini 10. Cool risotto in the fridge. 11. Form the risotto around the mozzarella cubes to a golf ball-size, then coat in flour, then egg and then panko breadcrumbs. 12. Deep-fry in hot oil until golden brown and season with salt.

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Acknowledgement of Country The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Western Operations) is committed to improved health outcomes and access to health services for all people. We respect and acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first Australians and our vision for reconciliation is to provide an organisational culture that strives for unity, equity, and respect.

Contact us

Royal Flying Doctor Service (Western Operations) 3 Eagle Drive Jandakot WA 6164

T: (08) 9417 6300 E: Emergency: 1800 625 800

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