The Flying Doctors 25 years on: Minyip residents share their memories

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, the final episode of one of Australia’s most popular series aired on television.

The Flying Doctors put Minyip on the map for millions of fans across Australia and the world.

The town served as the show’s setting, Coopers Crossing, and welcomed the cast of the Nine Network series during filming in the 1980s and 90s.

The drama ran from 1986 to 1992, preceded by a mini-series in 1985.

Minyip resident Shirley Smith recalls filming well.

“It was a very exciting time. There were so many things going on and people milling around,” she said.

“I was an extra for some of the episodes, and my daughter got a little part in the mini-series.

“Some of the scenes were done in winter, but the storyline was that it was the middle of summer.

“One time the actors were at the oval and we were extras, and it was freezing.

“I remember the crew telling us we had to have scarves around our necks because if we had them we wouldn't feel the cold nearly as much.

“And it worked.”

Mrs Smith said the cast spent about three weeks of the month in Minyip and one in Melbourne when the mini-series was filmed.

“That happened for the first two series also, but as it went on they spent less time in Minyip,” she said.

“By the time it got to the end of the series they were spending about a week here and three in Melbourne.”

Minyip’s Corinne Heintze put her sign-writing skills to the test when a storm on Christmas Day 1989 knocked down some of the show’s sets.

“Coopers Crossing headquarters was the senior citizens building, and the storm blew the Royal Flying Doctor Service sign away,” she said.

“They wanted to continue filming, and asked if anyone could make them another sign.

“So I did. I just had to make it look like the original and they were happy.”

Mrs Heintze remembers one storyline in the show’s mini-series involving a parade in Minyip’s main street.

“They had to get people all around the place with trucks and motorbikes,” she said.

“The scene had to look like it was a really stinking hot, dusty outback day, but they were actually filming between showers of hail.

“It was probably about 10 or 11 degrees.

“Rebecca Gibney had to get on the back of a truck and be paraded down the street. In between takes she was in a cafe with a pile of blankets, then she’d have to jump out on the back of the truck.

“This went on for about two hours and I thought, ‘You poor woman – you must be freezing’.

“But scene came out looking amazing.”

Mrs Heintze also recalls a storyline with a boat race on Yarriambiack Creek.

“They got the footy team and cricket team and a few church groups and whoever else they had to join in,” she said.

“I remember going out to see them film it. They made it look like there were thousands of people there, but in actual fact there were only about 40 people.”

Mrs Heintze said Emma’s Garage was an important part of Minyip, and it needed to be preserved.

“It's a huge amount of money for a community to find to repair it,” she said.

“We’re hoping people who have fond memories will see fit to donate a bit of money.”