Flynn of the Inland

Day 202 of Colourisation Project – November 25

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

You may have noticed that the Australian $20 note features the Rev John Flynn, founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world’s first air ambulance.

Born at Moliagul, Victoria, 45 kilometres west of Bendigo, this day, 25 November 1880, John Flynn was a Presbyterian minister, who in 1912 established the Australian Inland Mission to minister to the spiritual, social and medical needs of people in the Outback.

John Flynn

Photographer Unknown – Rev John Flynn 1912  – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

In 1917,  a young Victorian medical student and World War 1 pilot, Lieutenant Clifford Peel wrote to Flynn, suggesting that aviation was the answer to delivering medical help to the Australian Outback. Unfortunately the young airman was shot down in France at the age of 24, never knowing that his letter was to become the blueprint for the creation of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

For the next ten years, Flynn campaigned tirelessly for an aerial medical service to provide a ‘mantle of safety’ for the people of the bush.  When long time supporter of Flynn’s work, H V McKay, left a large bequest for ‘an aerial experiment’, Flynn was able to see the young Lieutenant Peel’s blueprint realised.

The Flying Doctor Service was airborne in 1928, with the first medical flight being made from Cloncurry in Queensland. 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.

When Flynn died of cancer in Sydney 1951, his burial service was linked up to the Flying Doctor network and could  be heard at remote stations and settlements all over the outback. Flynn’s ashes rest under the John Flynn Memorial just west of Alice Springs in the shadow of Mt. Gillen.

Flynn’s focus throughout his life was always on improving the lives of individuals living in isolated communities in the bush. His legacy ensures that these people today have access to proper health care and communications. Today, the Royal Flying Doctor Service owns a fleet of 61 fully instrumented airplanes with the very latest in navigation technology and employs 146 pilots.

Flynn has had more memorials dedicated to him than any other Australian. A novel by author Ion Idriess, loosely based on Flynn’s life, was published in 1932 under the title Flynn of the Inland. In 1933 Flynn was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Canberra has a suburb named after him. In 2006 Australian Electoral Commission created the federal electorate of Flynn in Queensland in his honour.


“The church has never come out this way before… if you combed the country for two hundred miles around you would not muster up a congregation. We do not expect them to come… Our work is to go to them. Here I am.”   –  John Flynn, quoted by Ion Idriess, in Flynn of the Inland

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