John Flynn

  • John Flynn (1880 – 1951) Presbyterian minister
    The Reverend John Flynn was an Australian Presbyterian minister who founded the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world’s first air ambulance. Flynn received an Order of the British Empire in 1933. He is featured on one side of the current Australian 20 dollar polymer note. “He brought gladness and rejoicing to the wilderness and solitary places”.

The Reverend John Flynn (25 November 1880 – 5 May 1951) was an Australian Presbyterian minister who founded the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world’s first air ambulance.

Born in the gold rush town of Moliagul, about 202 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, Victoria. His mother died in childbirth when Flynn was three, and he spent part of his childhood growing up with relatives. Flynn moved to Sunshine, now an outer western suburb of Melbourne [Note: Background to the suburb ‘Sunshine and H V McKay‘] as a child, where he completed secondary school in 1898, and began working as a schoolteacher. By 1903 he decided he wished to become a Presbyterian minister, and entered Ormond College, a college of the University of Melbourne to study divinity in 1907. He graduated in 1910 and was ordained in 1911.

Throughout his training, Flynn had worked in various then-remote areas through Victoria and South Australia, and his first posting after ordination was to the Smith of Dunesk Mission at Beltana, a tiny settlement 500 kilometres north of Adelaide. Beltana is a relatively isolated place even today and in those days was extremely remote. 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 matters spiritual, 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 the aeroplane, 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 read of Flynn’s speculations in The inlander : (a quarterly magazine dealing with national interests from the outbacker’s point of view, and edited by John Flynn), who had 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.

Miraculously 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.

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.

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, and was cremated and his remains placed under a large boulder from the Devil’s 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 received an Order of the British Empire in 1933. He is featured on one side of the current Australian 20 dollar polymer note.

In the 1950’s, the Royal Flying Doctor Service was acknowledged by former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies as “perhaps the single greatest contribution to the effective settlement of the far distant country we have witnessed in our time.”

Sourced from:

The John Flynn Story

Australia’s $20 note
John Flynn, “Flynn of the Inland” a Presbyterian minister whose tireless work for isolated communities in Australia’s far flung areas resulted in the establishment of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The “Victory,” a De Havilland 50 leased from QANTAS flew the first Flying Doctor mission in May 1928, is the plane depicted to the left of the note. Below the plane is a pedal transceiver wireless set used on outback stations for communication including the “School of the Air” which bought education to children in isolated areas. A “Where Does It Hurt” body chart for medical diagnosis by numbers over the pedal wireless is also shown. A Flynn Boundary Rider or Patrol Padre mounted on a camel is shown at the right.
Source :

Also note that the ‘polymer watermark’ on the bottom left – is a compass. For more on the “Where Does It Hurt” body chart, devised by Nurse Lucy Garlick of Broome, and and here

The twenty dollar note and the Christian connection

The man on the $20 note
2012 marks 100 years of the “Australian Inland Mission” pioneered by Rev John Flynn who famously launched the Flying Doctor Service.

Alfred Traeger (1895 – 1980) inventor of the pedal radio

Coledge Harland (1884 – 1963) patrol padre, the man on the camel

Hugh Victor (HV) McKay (1865 – 1926) manufacturer, the aerial ambulance supplier

Fred McKay (1915 – 2000) air force chaplain, John Flynn’s successor

Kingsley ‘Skipper’ Partridge (1892 – 1976) patrol padre, outback worker

John Clifford Peel (1894 – 1918) aviator, visionary

VH-UER The first air ambulance

Further information on John Flynn :

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) :

The origins of the Royal Flying Doctor Service
Brian Hernan tells how in 1918 John Clifford Peel passed on to the Rev.Dr.John Flynn, the idea, costings and plan to equip the fledging Australian Inland Mission with aircraft. Clifford Peel died in WW1 but his concept was taken up. People in the vast and remote reaches of Australia needed medical support. This was the beginning of what became the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 1954.

see also

Flynn’s vision for Outback people continues today through Frontier Services. The work has continued uninterrupted for 90 years, and our commitment to those challenged by distance remains undiminished. :

The John Flynn Place Cloncurry Qld : and

The John Flynn Monument at his place of birth, Moliagul Victoria :

The Flynn Trail Alice Springs :

The John Flynn Memorial Church Alice Springs. Its foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister R.G. Menzies in June 1954.

The John Flynn memorial at the junction of the Stuart and Barkly Highways NT :

The John Flynn grave Alice Springs flynngrave2

Information on the Canberra suburb Flynn which was named after John Flynn : Format – Audio, RealMedia, Duration : 7m 24s

All streets in the Canberra suburb of Flynn were named after people associated with the RFDS and the Australian Inland Mission. Information on the street names and the people (search Flynn )

Refer also – Associates of the Rev John Flynn.

The life stories of the gallant women who made Flynn’s dream of a ‘Mantle of Safety’ come true Flynn’s Outback Angels :

The Australian Electoral Commission – Federal Electorate of Flynn :

Note the Christian heritage of the man who provided the aerial ambulance, H V McKay and the man on the camel, Coledge Harland, as well as the man who invented the pedal radio – all shown on Australia’s $20 note.

Influential Australian Christians depicted on Australian notes and coins

RFDS Buy the sky:
Frontier Services:
Australian Inland Mission:

Video of John Flynn’s –  A Mantle of Safetymantle

Produced by Frontier Services: Duration 15 Minutes

More information on John Flynn

The Bushman’s Companion
John Flynn

Australian Inland Mission and John Flynn collection from the Australian National Library

Qantas to name an A380 aircraft after John Flynn

John Flynn Private Hospital

Primary School, Flynn ACT

The Flynn memorial at the school

and the plaque with the inscription from Isaiah 35.

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