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Podcast 20 – The Royal Flying Doctor Service

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 20 – The Royal Flying Doctor Service


Even though Australia is a big place with lots of open spaces, 89% of its 23 million people live in the big cities or in towns nearby, mostly on the coast.  For those people, getting to a doctor or a hospital is usually no problem.  But what about people who live in remote locations?  In these places, there are no hospitals and a doctor may not visit very often, or not at all.  What about people who work at remote cattle stations, or remote mining towns in the outback, or in small towns many hundreds of kilometres from the nearest hospital?  These people get sick and have accidents too.  And what about people who are travelling in these remote areas?  Sometimes they will need urgent medical help while they are travelling. To meet these health needs, Australia has a unique organization.  It’s called the Royal Flying Doctor Service, or RFDS for short.

The RFDS was started 85 years ago by the Reverend John Flynn.  On the 17th of May, 1928 he was able to organise the first aircraft flight carrying a pilot and the first RFDS doctor to help someone in a remote area.  In 1929, the pedal powered radio was invented so that people in remote outback Australia could call the RFDS by radio in a medical emergency.  Today the RFDS provides medical transport across 80% of outback Australia, providing medical help for all those people living in remote areas and also those travelling through outback Australia.  Radio is still used to communicate in many outback locations today although the telephone is now readily available. John Flynn’s picture is on Australia’s $20 note.  He was certainly a great Australian.

The RFDS today is a large organization with 61 aircraft which, in 2011/12, made over 74,000 flights covering a distance of nearly 27 million kilometres.  It employs 1,150 staff including 186 pilots, 19 radio staff, 162 doctors and 247 nurses.  It has 21 bases around Australia with aircraft which also provide medical services, and 5 special health facilities which provide just medical services.  It provides services 24 hours a day to an area of Australia that’s nearly the size of the USA.  Every day, it makes around 200 landings.  Wow, that’s big.  Without it, life in outback Australia would be almost impossible.


In 2011/12, it cost nearly $60 million to run.  These costs come from Australian governments (72%), charity donations (17%) and the rest from other sources of income.  Importantly, for the people that it helps every day across Australia, there is no cost.  It is free.

The RFDS helps people in a number of ways, and not only by aircraft transport.  I’ll summarise their services next.  For a complete list and more details about the RFDS, you should visit the RFDS website, at

Emergency Air Transport

When someone is seriously ill or injured and requires urgent transport by air to a hospital, the RFDS will send an aircraft.  For this service, the RFDS may fly to an isolated place such as a cattle station, a mine site, a road house or a small town, to a remote health facility, or even to where the accident has happened.


The RFDS will also transfer sick patients by air from one hospital to a larger hospital if required.

All RFDS aircraft are specially set up as small intensive care units, with state-of-the-art medical equipment.


They are capable of speeds of up to 500 kilometres per hour and can travel for up to 1,500 kilometres. They are pressurised, which means the air pressure inside the aircraft is the same as at sea level.  This is essential for the treatment of serious injuries.

Aircraft are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Aircraft are staffed with a pilot, a flight nurse and sometimes also a doctor.  In 2011/12, there were almost 5,000 emergency evacuations.

Telehealth Consultations

Sometimes, a doctor can treat a sick person by talking to them on the phone and then prescribing medicine.  This method of remote consultations is used by RFDS doctors very successfully.  It is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week by telephone and radio to people living or travelling in rural and outback Australia. Over 85,000 of these consultations are conducted each year.   That’s a lot of patients who were helped without anyone having to travel hundreds of kilometres.

Doctors and Nurses – They Come to the People

Many times however, it’s best if the doctor or nurse goes to the patient.  The RFDS meets this need by sending doctors to remote areas regularly to hold clinics.  A clinic is like a temporary doctor’s practice which the people can visit to be treated for sicknesses which are not urgent.  The RFDS doctor flies in, holds the clinic and then flies out.  In 2011/12, there were around 3,000 such clinics and RFDS doctors treated more than 31,000 patients at these clinics.  There are also special child and maternal clinics for the care of pregnant women, babies and young children.  This means having a family in a remote area can be a safer experience.  These clinics are run by RFDS doctors and specialist child and maternal health nurses.

Nurses also provide clinics.  As well as providing everyday health care to patients, they also spend several days in each place providing health education, including school health programs, immunization and screening programs in remote schools.  In 2011/12, there were around 1,600 nursing clinics and they treated more than 10,000 patients at those clinics.

Medical Chests

The RFDS also provides medical chests at certain locations around Australia.  A medical chest is a large metal box containing a range of medicines, bandages and other medical items used to treat sick or injured people.  It’s a bit like a chemist shop in a box. They are looked after by a member of the public who must manage it according to RFDS rules.  Currently, there are 2,431 medical chests in rural and remote Australia.

Rural Women’s GP Service

One special RFDS program is called the Rural Women’s GP Service.  It provides RFDS women doctors for remote communities, to deal with more sensitive women’s health issues.  Many rural women would prefer to see a female doctor about these issues.  This service encourages them to visit the doctor when a clinic is held.

Health Promotion

A major part of what the RFDS does is about promoting healthy living.  There is a saying – prevention is better than cure.  So all RFDS programs and services also promote good health practices.  That way, even if you are healthy today, you can learn how to prevent illness in the future.

For those of you who are interested in flying, here are some details about the aircraft the RFDS uses.

  • They have PC-12 Pilatus aircraft, which are single engine propeller aircraft.  These carry a single pilot, 1 nurse and room for 2 patients.  These are used for emergency air transport.
  • They also have Beecraft King Air B200 aircraft, which are twin engine propeller aircraft.  These can carry two pilots, 1 nurse, sometimes a doctor and have room for 2 patients.  These are also used for emergency air transport.
  • The third aircraft is a single Hawker 800XP2, a twin engine Jet, carrying 3 medical staff and with room for 3 patients.
  • There are also 2 Cessna Grand Caravan C208 aircraft.  These are single engine propeller aircraft.

Inside an RFDS Beechcraft King Air B200 aircraft QLDI have never had to fly in an RFDS aircraft and I hope it stays that way.  In the meantime, those Australians living in rural and remote Australia can enjoy living in the outback, knowing that if they become sick or are injured, the RFDS is always there.

There is a good film called Royal Flying Doctors on TV.  You can see it at this link.

If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it. Or, you can send me an email at  I would love to hear from you.  Tell me where you live, a little bit about yourself and what you think of my Slow English podcast.  Perhaps you could suggest a topic for a future podcast. Goodbye until next time.


(Photographs copyright Royal Flying Doctor Service – used with their permission)


accidents = when something goes wrong.  For example, a car crash.  In accidents, you sometimes get hurt

aircraft = an aeroplane.  It flies through the sky and carries people to other places.

bandages = used to wrap a part of your body which has been injured

bases = a place where the RFDS has its aircraft and where it can also treat sick people

cattle stations = very large area of land used to raise cattle for meat

charity = when money is given in order to help someone in need

clinics = a place where doctors or nurses provide help to those who are sick

communicate = when messages are passed from one person to another.  For example by telephone or radio

conducted = when something is undertaken.  For example, a search was conducted.

consultations = when you go to see the doctor about your sickness

emergency = when somebody is very sick and they need a doctor very soon.

employs = when a person works for a company or organisation

equipment = the tools which help you do something.  For example, a heart monitor

evacuations = when people are taken away from a place

experience = when you go through an event

immunization = when you are given a medicine which stops you from getting a sickness

impossible = it cannot be done

intensive care units = a place where very sick people get the best of care

invented = when someone thinks of and builds something new which no one else has thought of.

isolated = when a place is a long way from any other place.  There are no other towns nearby.

maternal = to do with being a mother

mining = digging valuable minerals (like gold) from the ground

organise = to get things in order

organization = where a large number of people work together

outback = the parts of Australia which are a long way from the city

pedal powered radio = a radio which makes its own electricity using pedals from a bicycle

pregnant = when a woman is going to have a baby

prescribing = when the doctor tells you what medicine you should have

prevention is better than cure = when you get sick, a doctor can cure you.  But it is better not to get sick at all

promoting = when you tell people about something which is good for them

remote locations = places which have few people and are a long way from cities

Reverend = a type of priest in a Christian church

road house = on the highway, where you can buy petrol and something to eat

Royal = means that the Queen supports this service and has said it can use the word Royal in its name

screening = when people are tested in a group to see if they have a disease

sensitive = things that are hard to talk about.  For example, when something is very personal

single engine propeller = an aircraft which has one propeller to make it move through the air

special health facilities = a place where sick people are treated

state-of-the-art = the best you can get

travelling = to go from one place to another

twin = two

unique = when something is the only one of its kind.

urgent = when something must be done now or very soon



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Postcast 15 – Rubbish – It’s Not All Rubbish

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 15 – Rubbish – It’s Not All Rubbish


One of the regular jobs in our house is to take out the rubbish. It’s amazing how much rubbish we create each week. Every time I look at our kitchen rubbish bin, it seems to be full. In Australia, we help control our rubbish by recycling. Recycling means that certain types of rubbish are collected separately and then turned back into something useful. This helps keep our environment cleaner.

Each household in our part of Melbourne has 3 rubbish bins. We need to sort our rubbish and put it into one of these three bins. I keep our three bins out near the clothes line, behind the garage.

The first bin we have is black in colour and is for real rubbish. By real rubbish, I mean that it will be thrown away and can really be called rubbish. In this bin we put things such as food scraps, food wrappings, broken glass, plastic bags, old or broken cups and plates, old light globes, used tissues, plastic cling wrap, jar lids, tea bags, coffee grounds, polystyrene foam (for example take away cups and meat trays), anything sharp and anything else about which you are not sure. The rubbish from this bin is taken away to be buried in landfill.

The second bin we have is brown in colour. Into that bin goes any garden waste. We have a garden at our house, but I don’t like gardening very much. Therefore I don’t use the garden waste bin a lot. I’m afraid our garden is not as good looking as it could be. However, my wife enjoys gardening so she will often work in the garden and then put the garden waste into the brown bin. Garden waste includes such things as grass clippings, small branches and leaves. All of the garden waste which is collected is sent to a garden waste recycling centre, where it is made into mulch. Mulch is put onto gardens to keep the moisture in the soil and to stop weeds from growing. There is one of these garden waste recycling centres near my home. I walk past it each morning on my regular walk.


The third bin we have is green in colour. This bin is used for recyclables and is the most interesting one. So what goes into this bin? Well, it is for those things which can be turned into something useful, that is, recycled. Our local council has given us a list of what can, and can’t, go into this bin. Things which can go in are:

  1. Glass bottles and jars – these are sorted and then used to make new glass bottles.
  2. Plastic drink bottles – these are made from plastic which can be recycled. They have a small triangle on their base, with a number in the middle of the triangle. For example, a plastic milk bottle has, on its base, a triangle with a 1 in the middle. Any plastic bottle with a 1, or indeed a 2,3,4,5,6 or 7 in the triangle can be recycled. This type of plastic is turned into resin which is used to make new rubbish bins and also other plastic products.
  3. Milk and fruit juice cartons – these are recycled into paper for use in printers and for writing.
  4. Aluminium cans – these are recycled to make more aluminium cans. Did you know that making a recycled aluminium can uses 20 times less energy than making a new aluminium can.
  5. Steel and aerosol cans – these are recycled to make new cans, train tracks and other steel products.
  6. Old newspapers, magazines and advertising material – these are recycled to make paper for newspapers, cardboard packaging, insulation and building products.
  7. Cardboard boxes – these are recycled to make new packaging.


For our house, about 40% of our rubbish goes into the recycle bin. It’s great that these materials are not wasted and can be used again and again. It means that less rubbish is buried in landfill and that’s good for the environment.

Our rubbish is collected once a week on a Friday. We must put our bins out on the edge of the street, so that the rubbish truck, the garden waste truck or the recycling truck can pick it up.

The black bin is collected every week, while the other two bins are collected every 2 weeks. I am happy to say, that since 1998 when we moved into this house, we have never forgotten to put our bins out for pick up. Not bad eh?

If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it. Or, you can send me an email at I would like to hear any suggestions you may have. I would especially like your suggestions for podcast topics. Goodbye until next time.



aerosol cans = a steel can used to hold something under pressure, like fly spray

base = the bottom of something. For example, the bottom of a bottle

behind = in the back of

boxes = rectangular containers that you put things in.

buried = when something is put in the ground and covered up

cardboard packaging = the material used to wrap something in.

cartons = like a bottle, but made of hard paper

coffee grounds = what is left of the coffee beans after you make coffee

collected = when things are put into one place

control = to make something do as you want

create = to make something

environment = the world around us

garage = where you park your car

grass clippings = when you mow the lawn, grass clippings are made.

insulation = used in a house to keep it warm. Usually put in the ceiling or walls

landfill = a way of burying very large amounts of rubbish in the ground.

light globes = made of glass and uses electricity to make light in a room

middle = when something is in the centre

plastic cling wrap = clear covering used to cover food

polystyrene foam = a very light material used for throw away cups and other things

products = things that are made by man

regular = when somethings always happens at fixed times

resin = a product that is used to make plastic

separately = when things are kept apart

sharp = when something can cut you

steel = very hard metal

tissues = paper used to wipe things

triangle = a shape with 3 corners and 3 straight sides

wrappings = used to cover up something like food. For example, paper

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Podcast 14 – Turning on the Tap – Clean Water in Australia

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 14 – Turning on the Tap – Clean Water in Australia


Sometimes we don’t appreciate the good things we have. We complain about having a bad day, or perhaps we wish we had a new car or a new computer. One of the good things we have in Australia is our water. It’s clean and it’s always there. You just turn on a tap and it comes out. In this podcast I would like to tell you a little about our water here in Melbourne.

Australia is a land of contrasts. We have areas with lots of rain and we have areas with very little rain. In fact, in many parts of Australia it doesn’t rain very much at all. So not having enough water can be a problem. In 2009, Melbourne’s water supplies got very low. There had been poor rains in the winter for several years and our water storage levels were below 30% full. The truth is, we didn’t use our water well. We wasted a lot of water. So our government started an advertising campaign to help us all to use less water. This advertising campaign told us to try and use no more than 155 litres of water, per person, per day. The people of Melbourne heard the message and our use of water went down. That was a great result. Over the last 3 years we have had good rains in winter and, together with using less water, our water storage levels are now back to over 70% again. We are all happy about that.

The city has ten large reservoirs for water. The largest is the Thomson Dam, which holds more than one billion litres. That’s enough water to fill 427,000 Olympic swimming pools. These reservoirs are in the Yarra Ranges near the city. Five of these reservoirs have catchments. A catchment is a large area of land around the reservoir where the rain can run off the land, into creeks, into rivers and finally into the reservoir. For example, the Thomson Dam has a catchment area of 48,700 hectares. That’s 487 square kilometres. From these five reservoirs with catchments, some of the water is pumped to the other five reservoirs, so that, in total, Melbourne has ten reservoirs to hold it’s water.

But of course it’s not only about having enough water. The water must be clean. Well, Melbourne’s water is very clean. About 80% of Melbourne’s water comes from catchments which are closed. A closed catchment means that the forest and bush in those catchments is undisturbed – that means that no people live there and people are not allowed to go there. It is completely natural forest and bush. Water which flows from these catchments into those reservoirs is already very clean. Melbourne is one of only 5 cities in the world which has closed catchments.

About 20% of our water still comes from open catchments. Open catchments are not closed to the public. These catchments are downstream from towns and farms. Therefore treatment of our water is required to make sure it is clean and safe for people to drink and to use. There are 3 treatment plants in Melbourne. One of them is the Winneke Treatment Plant and I can ride there on my motorcycle in about 30 minutes.


It is next to the Sugarloaf Reservoir, one of the ten reservoirs which Melbourne has.


Like many reservoirs, it has a great area where you can take the family for a barbeque. When our children were young, we took them there for a barbeque and we really enjoyed it.


The water is treated in 3 steps. First, it is filtered. Filtering removes 95% of solids and microorganisms. Microorganisms can make people sick and must be removed to make the water safe. Second, a small amount of chlorine is added. The chlorine kills any remaining microorganisms not removed by the filtering. The water is now safe to drink. Third, flouride is added. Flouride is a chemical which helps prevent tooth decay.


From there, the water is sent down large pipes to 40 smaller service reservoirs around Melbourne. From there, it is sent down smaller pipes straight to houses and to businesses all around Melbourne. So all you have to do is turn on a tap and out it comes.


If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it. Or, you can send me an email at I would like to hear any suggestions you may have. I would especially like your suggestions for podcast topics. Goodbye until next time.



advertising campaign = a number of advertisements are shown, usually on TV, radio or posters

appreciate = to realize the value of something

billion = 1,000,000,000

businesses = where people sell things or services to make money

complain = to tell someone that you are not happy about something

contrasts = differences, when two things are not the same

creeks = water running down a valley

downstream = down the river, the water always flows downstream

farms = where people grow crops and keep animals

government = the country is run by the government

natural = has not been changed by people

not allowed = when you are not able to do something

per = each

pipes = long round tubes which carry water

prevent tooth decay = stop people’s teeth going bad

public = the people who live in your country

remaining = what is left after something is taken away

removed = when something is taken away

required = when something must be done

reservoirs = a place which stores a very large amount of water, usually a dam

result = the outcome

several = more than one

tap = something at the end of a water pipe. You can turn it on or off

treatment = when something is changed, usually to fix a problem

truth = when something cannot be denied

undisturbed = has not been changed by people

wasted = when something is not used as it should be

water storage levels = how much water there is. For example, full, empty, high, low, 50%


Podcast 13 – Health Care in Australia

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 13 – Health Care in Australia


There is a saying – ‘Nothing else matters, as long as you’ve got your health’. This is very true. I have been very lucky in my life because I have not been sick very often. When I have been sick, I have always received the best medical treatment. That’s because Australia has a good system for making sure that all Australians can get the health care they need, when they need it. Now I’m not saying our system is perfect. It has problems, that’s for sure, but overall I think it’s a good system. In this podcast, I will tell you a little about how it works. Obviously, any health care system is very complicated, so I will only give a brief summary. If you want to find out more, you should go to

Australia’s health care system is a universal system. In other words, everybody who lives in Australia is covered. That’s a good thing. You can’t choose not to be covered. You never know when you might get sick or injured and, in Australia, if you do, you will get quality health care – no questions asked. The Australian health care program is called Medicare.

I will only talk about the 2 main types of health care situations in this podcast.

First – When You Need to See a Doctor

Often there’s the situation where you feel sick and need to see a doctor. In Australia, there are 3.9 doctors for every 1,000 people, according to the World Bank website. This is quite high by world standards. It’s true that many rural areas don’t have as many doctors as they need. For isolated rural areas, Australia has the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It has an interesting story and I’ll talk about that in another podcast. For most Australians, it’s easy to find a doctor when you need one. For example, I have a medical practice just 200 metres away in my street.


We have lots of small medical practices in Australia, usually with a few doctors working together. We also have many large medical practices with 15 or 20 doctors which are part of a bigger network. At these practices, you can also get treatment from dentists, physiotherapists, dieticians and other special medical staff. These practices are like a ‘one stop shop’ for medical care. I use one of these practices when I go to the doctor.


When you visit a doctor, they will often prescribe medicines for you. To get these medicines, you need to go to a Pharmacy or Chemist with the prescription which the doctor has written for you. The pharmacist will then prepare the correct medicines based on the prescription. Often, the pharmacy will be located near to, or even next to, the doctor’s practice.


The doctor may also suggest that you need to see another specialist doctor for further assessment and treatment. To see a specialist, you must be referred by your doctor. This is called a referral. For example, when I went to the doctor about blemishes on my face, my doctor referred me to a skin specialist.

What does it cost to see a doctor?

Well doctors have two ways of charging you.

  • In the first method, the doctor gives you a bill and you pay the doctor. Medicare then pays you a rebate towards your bill. The rebate is almost always less than what the doctor charges. For example, one local doctor I know charges about $65 for a visit. The standard Medicare rebate is about $35. So you have to pay about $30 out of your own pocket.
  • In the second method, the doctor can send the bill straight to Medicare. Medicare pays the doctor the standard Medicare rebate (about $35), which the doctor must accept as full payment. So you have nothing to pay. This is called bulk billing.

About 80% of all doctor’s visits are bulk billed. In the big cities, it is easy to find doctors who are happy to bulk bill. My doctor bulk bills. I like it because it means I don’t have to worry about paying. Other people prefer to go to a particular doctor, and if that doctor doesn’t bulk bill, they don’t mind that they have something to pay.

If the doctor gives you a prescription for medicine, you then go to a Pharmacy. When you buy the medicines, the government subsidizes the cost so that you pay no more than around $36, and most times much less. This includes all prescription medicines, many of which can be very expensive. This excellent scheme helps keep the cost of health care down for all Australians.

What About When You Need to Go to a Hospital?

As we all know, sometimes there are emergency situations. Perhaps you have had an accident, for example a car accident, or you have had a bad fall off a ladder. Or perhaps you have terrible pain and you know you need to get to a hospital fast, for example if you are having a heart attack or a stroke.

Hospitals in Australia are either Public Hospitals or Private Hospitals. Public Hospitals are owned and fully paid for by the government. They handle most of the emergency cases, such as accidents or urgent cases. If you go to a Public Hospital, you don’t get any choice in who the doctor will be. Also, if your case is not very urgent, you may need to wait many hours for treatment, depending on how urgent your sickness or injury is. The most urgent cases are always treated first. If you need an operation and it is not urgent, you can sometimes wait for many months to have the operation. However, you don’t have to pay anything, as Medicare pays the bill.


By contrast, private hospitals are owned privately, usually by a company which specializes in owning and managing hospitals. Private hospitals charge fees for your room and for other services you may receive. However, you can have the doctor of your choice. The doctor will also charge you fees. Generally, private hospitals specialize in cases where the patient’s treatment is not an emergency. People who need an operation and don’t want to wait will choose a private hospital and take out health insurance.


What Does It Cost in a Hospital?

As stated before, it costs nothing in a public hospital.

By contrast, in a private hospital it can cost a very large amount. That’s why patients almost always take out health insurance if they want to use private hospitals. I have health insurance and I think it’s a great idea. But that is another topic and needs a separate podcast.

Medicare – How Does the Government Pay For It?

Well, Australians pay an amount in their taxes called the Medicare Levy. For most Australians, it is 1.5% of their taxable income. This levy is compulsory. However, if you have a low income, you may pay less than 1.5% or indeed nothing at all if your income is below a certain amount.

I hope this podcast has not been too complicated for you. I don’t think about our health system very often, but when I get sick, I’m just glad that it works.

If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page.  You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it. Or, you can send me an email at I would like to hear any suggestions you may have. I would especially like your suggestions for podcast topics. Goodbye until next time.



according to = when someone tells you something

assessment = when someone decides something about you

blemishes = marks on the skin

charging = what you must pay

complicated = when something is not simple

compulsory = when you must do it

covered = when something is included

dentists = a person who treats your teeth

dietician = a person who helps you choose the right things to eat

emergency = when someone is need of help right away

injured = when part of your body gets hurt

insurance = when you pay another company so that they will help you if something happens later

isolated = when there are no people living nearby

medical treatment = the help that a doctor gives you to make you well.

medicine = something which you take into your body to make you well

method = a way of doing something

obviously = when everyone can see it

operation = when a doctor repairs part of your body

particular = specific

pharmacy = a place which prepares and sells medicines

physiotherapists = a person who treats problems in muscles and joints

practice = the place you go to see a doctor

prescribe = when the doctor tells you what medicines you need

referred = when someone directs you to another person

rural = away from the city

situations = when a set of conditions apply

specializes = when someone has a lot of skill in something

subsidizes = when someone else pays some of the cost

universal = when something applies in all cases

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Podcast 11 – Skin Cancer in Australia

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 11 – Skin Cancer in Australia


Australia is a great place to live. Despite that, there are some diseases in Australia which are caused by our climate and our active outdoor lifestyle.  One of those diseases is skin cancer.  In this podcast, I would like to tell you a little bit about this disease in Australia, what causes it and how Australians are now changing their lifestyle in order to reduce it.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer of any country in the world.  Two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with some type of skin cancer before they reach the age of 70.

There are three main types of skin cancer and only one of them is serious.  Luckily, the serious type is not very common.  The three main types of cancer are basal cell carcinoma (called BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (called SCC) and melanoma.  The third type of cancer, melanoma, can be very serious and can lead to death if it is not treated early.  The first two types of cancer (called non-melanoma skin cancers) are not dangerous and cannot lead to death.  However, they still must be treated.

Non-melanoma cancers are the most common types of skin cancer.  In Australia, about 430,000 cases of these skin cancers are diagnosed and treated each year.   They usually develop in people who are over 40 years of age.   Melanoma is the cancer Australians worry about most.  In Australia, there are more than 10,300 cases of melanoma diagnosed and treated every year. Melanoma can develop even in young people.

What causes skin cancer?  Well it’s quite simple really.  The answer is too much exposure to ultraviolet light.  That comes from too much exposure to intense sunlight or through the use of tanning machines in a Solarium.  Australia has lots of sun and our lifestyle means we are often out in the sun having fun.  For example, we like to go to the beach in the summer and to go outdoors for such activities as swimming, camping, bush walking, picnics,  barbeques and watching and playing sports.  What is more, we like to do these things in the heat of the day.

Since the 1980s, Australian governments have been educating Australians that skin cancer can be prevented. Again, it’s quite simple.  The answer is to protect your skin from the sun, especially when the sun is most dangerous during the middle of the day.   You protect your skin by wearing protective clothing when outside (such as a long sleeve shirt), using a sunscreen lotion or spray and always wearing a hat when outside, especially during summer.

The government advertisement from 1980 gave the message Slip, Slop, Slap.  Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.

I am 60 years of age now, but when I was a boy growing up in a seaside town in the 1950s and 1960s, nobody knew about the dangers of skin cancer.  We went to the beach most days in the summer and never wore a hat, nor a shirt and never used sunscreen lotion.  I can remember many times laying in bed with my skin red, burned and painful from a long day at the beach.   Now that I am 60 years old, my skin is damaged and I have had many small non-melanoma skin cancers removed from my skin.  One on my nose was so large that I had to have a skin graft after it was removed.  The doctor performed an operation where he removed the skin cancer from my nose and replaced it with skin from behind my ear (a skin graft).

Today, all Australians are well educated about how to prevent sun damage to their skin.  If you drive past a school in Australia, all the children playing outside will have a wide brimmed hat on.   That’s a good thing.  I hope that our children will grow up to have fewer skin cancers than I have had.  It means that we can still enjoy the great outdoor life here in Australia, but by being careful, we can ensure we don’t get skin cancers as we get older.


If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it. Or, you can send me an email at I would like to hear any suggestions you may have. I would especially like your suggestions for podcast topics. Goodbye until next time.



active = when you do a lot of things, especially outside

advertisement = a message which tells you to do something.  For example, a TV advertisement

camping = when you live out in the open, usually in a tent

climate = the weather

common = when lots of people have it or do it

dangerous = when you might be hurt, or get very sick or even die.

despite = when something is not expected.

diagnosed = when a doctor finds that you have a disease or sickness

diseases = sicknesses.  For example, cancer or a cold.

educating = when you learn something

exposure = when your body is not covered and light can shine on it.  Usually not a good thing

intense = when something is very strong

lifestyle = how you live

prevented = when something is stopped

protective = something that protects you from something else.  For example, clothes protect you from the sun

serious = when something must be treated or you might die

Solarium = a place where you can go to use tanning machines to make your skin go brown

sunscreen lotion = something you spread on your skin.  It stops you from getting sunburn

tanning machines = special light machines which make your skin go brown

treated = when a doctor helps you get well again

ultraviolet = the part of sunlight that can damage your skin

wide brimmed hat = a hat which is very wide.  It keeps the sun off your face.

worry = when people think about something a lot, something they don’t like