John Flynn (minister)
Always thinking of the needs of those in isolated communities, in September 1910 Flynn published The Bushman's Companion which was distributed free throughout inland Australia. He took up the opportunity to succeed the Revd E.E. Baldwin as the Smith of Dunesk Missioner at Beltana, a tiny settlement 500 kilometres north of Adelaide. He was ordained in Adelaide for this work in January 1911. The missioners visited the station properties in a wide radius of Beltana, and their practical and spiritual service was valued in the isolated localities. Flynn used it as an opportunity to look at the potential for something bigger. By 1912, after writing a report for his church superiors on the difficulties of ministering to such a widely scattered population, Flynn was made the first superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission. As well as tending to spiritual matters, Flynn quickly established the need for medical care for residents of the vast Australian outback, and established a number of bush hospitals.
By 1917, Flynn was already considering the possibility of new technology, such as radio and aircraft, to assist in providing a more useful acute medical service, and then received a letter from an Australian pilot serving in World War I, Clifford Peel, who had heard of Flynn's speculations and outlined the capabilities and costs of then-available planes. This material was published in the church's magazine, the start of Flynn turning his considerable fund-raising talents to the task of establishing a flying medical service. The first flight of the Aerial Medical Service was in 1928 from Cloncurry, Queensland. A museum commemorating the founding of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is located at John Flynn Place in Cloncurry.
Surviving the Great Depression, Flynn guided the organisation, lobbying both politicians and his church, to take the service nationwide. In 1934 the Australian Aerial Medical Service was formed, and gradually established a network of bases nationwide. Flynn remained the public face of the organisation (through name changes to its present form) and helped raise the funds that kept the service operating.
Bob Hughes, who was Postmaster-General at the time, was very impressed with Flynn's work, and offered to take over the provision and maintenance of the entire radio network, converting every pedal wireless into a Public Telegraph Office. This was rejected out of hand by Flynn, as otherwise he could not prevent messages placing bets on horses and ones ordering liquor from being sent and received.
While undoubtedly most famous for the organisation that became the RFDS, Flynn's work with the Mission extended well beyond it. As well as the nursing homes, Flynn instituted travelling ministries - ministers travelling vast distances on horseback through the inland. In 1939 Presbyterian Church of Australia elected Flynn to the primus inter pares role of Moderator-General.
John Flynn was born in Moliagul on the 25th November 1880. Flynn married the secretary of the AIM, Jean Baird, in 1931 at the relatively advanced age of 51. He finally retired and died in Sydney. He was cremated and his remains placed under a large boulder from the Devils Marbles. In an unfortunate postscript to Flynn's life, the Northern Territory Department of Public Works had taken the rock from a site sacred to its traditional owners. After many years of negotiations the rock was returned to its original location in 1998 and replaced with one acceptable to the Aboriginal people, both of the original rock's home and the people on whose land his grave lies.
Flynn is featured on one side of the current Australian 20 dollar note.
Flynn's name has also been adopted in commemoration of him, including:
- Phineas Flynn, the protagonist from the Disney Channel TV series Phineas and Ferb
- The Canberra suburb of Flynn honours his memory
- The federal electorate of Flynn in Queensland was created by the Australian Electoral Commission in 2006.
- Qantas has announced that they intend naming one of their Airbus A380s after Flynn in recognition of his contribution to the aviation industry and particularly to his achievement of founding the Royal Australian Flying Doctors Service.
- The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine has also created a John Flynn Placement Program, which is a scholarship for medical students wanting to experience medical practice in the outback
Books about Flynn include:
- Ion Idriess wrote Flynn of the Inland in 1953. The book told of Flynn's life and the establishment and running of the Australian Inland Mission.
- Barry Brown, John Flynn and the Flying Doctor Service, 1960
- Allan Drummond, John Flynn, 2012
- Rudolph Ivan, John Flynn of Flying Doctors and Frontier Faith, 1996
- Brian C.Peachment, Aeroplanes or a Grave: The Story of John Flynn and the Flying Doctor Service
- W.Scott McPheat, John Flynn - Apostle to the Inland, 1963
- W.Scott McPheat, John Flynn : Vision of the Inland, 1976
- Australian Inland Mission collection - digitised images from the National Library of Australia
- http://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/About-Us/Our-History/The-John-Flynn-Story - Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), History of John Flynn
- http://www.action-graphics.com.au/matilda/pages/cloncurry/cloncurryjohnflynn.html - John Flynn Place, Cloncurry
- Bucknall, Graeme, 'Flynn, John (1880–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
- http://members.westnet.com.au/likelyprospects/john_flynn.html The John Flynn Monument at Moliagul