The Rev. John Flynn

Flynn Church
The Flynn Church in Todd Mall.
John Flynn
The Very Rev John Flynn OBE, DD.

The Very Reverend John Flynn, O.B.E., D.D., 'Flynn of the Inland', was born at Moliagul, Victoria, 45 kilometres west of Bendigo, on the 25th of November, 1880. He was the third child, and second son of Thomas and Rosetta and his mother died in childbirth, causing him to be raised in Sydney, until he was five, by his mother's 18 year old sister.
Flynn was around 16 when he decided to join the ministry and studied theology at Ormond College, at the University of Melbourne. He was ordained into the Presbyterian Church on 24th of January, 1911, and arrived at Beltana, in northern South Australia, to take up missionary work in early February.
An energetic worker, Flynn already had some training in missionary work in Victoria and was a keen writer and photographer. In 1910 he had published a book of hints for outback people on the proceeds of lectures he had given using his collection of lantern slides, and at Beltana he began publishing a quarterly newsletter,'The Outback Battler', in addition to his missionary work.
In 1912 he was asked by the Church Home Mission Directors to prepare a report on religious conditions in the Northern Territory. After conferences in Melbourne and Sydney, he travelled by ship to Darwin where he visited Katherine, Bathurst Island and Adelaide River researching his paper. His report prompted the committee to authorise the implementation of his proposals for Inland Missions, and later that year the name Australian Inland Missions (A.I.M.) was adopted for the scheme. He was appointed Superintendent of the new body, a position he held all his life.
During the formative years of the AIM, Flynn became interested in the possibility of establishing an aerial medical service in outback areas. Several articles appeared in newspapers and magazines around the country recommending such a service, and Flynn pushed the idea through his own magazine,' The Inlander', which he began in 1913. He worked tirelessly at organising people and resources until in 1928, the first medical flight of what was to become the Royal Flying Doctor Service, was made from Cloncurry in Queensland.
Radio was still more of a novelty than a fact in Australia at this time, but Flynn saw the potential of using it for outback communications. ( The A.B.C. in Australia had only begun broadcasting 5 years earlier.) In 1929 Alfred Traeger, who worked with Flynn as his radio expert. launched a pedal radio set at a cost of only $65, and another of Flynn's visions became reality. Flynn had been made a member of the Wireless Institute of Australia in 1925.
In 1931, aged 51, Flynn married Jean Baird, a secretary with the AIM, and in 1933 he was admitted to the Order of the British Empire.
By November 1939, all states had their own Aerial Medical Service, and the Australian Inland Mission operated hospital-hostels in remote areas over most of the country. At this time there were 200 outpost radios and six aircraft with pilots and doctors attached to the Aerial Medical Service.
Flynn was appointed Moderator-General of the Prebyterian Church in Australia in 1939, a position he held until 1942.
In May 1950, Flynn attended what was to be his last Flying Doctor Council meeting, he died of cancer in Sydney on May 25th, 1951. His body was cremated and the ashes rest under the Flynn Memorial just west of Alice Springs in the shadow of Mt. Gillen. In 1976, the ashes of his wife, Jean, were also placed there.
The burial service for Flynn on the 23rd, May, 1951 was linked up to the Flying Doctor network and was heard at remote stations and settlements all over the outback.
Flynn's work is perpetuated throughout the outback in many ways. The Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Australian Inland Mission are working testimonials to his drive and vision. In 1956 the Flynn Memorial Church was dedicated in Alice Springs; at Threeways, north of Tennant Creek a massive monument marks the junction of the Barkly Highway from Queensland and the Stuart Highway to Darwin, it is called the Flynn Memorial.
Flynn once said. ' If you start something worhthwhile - nothing can stop it.' A former Governor General of Australia, Sir William Slim once said of Flynn.' His hands are stretched out like a benediction over the Inland.'
The outback owes much to 'Flynn of the Inland', and he will long be remembered by the hundreds of thousands of people who have benefited by his work.

Copyright Peter W. Wilkins