John Flynn (minister)

For other people named John Flynn, see John Flynn (disambiguation).
John Flynn

John Flynn, 1929
Born John Flynn
(1880-11-25)25 November 1880
Moliagul, Colony of Victoria, Australia
Died 5 May 1951(1951-05-05) (aged 70)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Cause of death Cancer
Occupation Minister, author, founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia
Organization The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia
Spouse(s) Rosetta Forsyth

John Flynn OBE (25 November 1880  5 May 1951) was an Australian Presbyterian minister who founded what became the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world's first air ambulance.

Early life

Educated at Snake Valley, Sunshine and Braybrook primary schools, he matriculated from University High School Parkville, aged 18. Unable to finance a university course, he became a pupil-teacher with the Victorian Education Department and developed interests in photography and first aid. In 1903 he began training for the ministry through an extra-mural course for 'student lay pastors', serving meanwhile in pioneering districts of Beech Forest and Buchan. His next four years in theological college were interspersed with two periods on a shearers' mission and the publication of his Bushman's Companion (1910).


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 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.[1]

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.[2]


Flynn married the secretary of the AIM, Jean Baird, in 1931; he was 51 years old.

Flynn's grave, near Alice Springs.


He finally retired and died in Sydney. He was cremated and his remains placed under a large boulder from the Devils Marbles. The Northern Territory Department of Public Works had taken the rock from a site sacred to its traditional owners, but after many years of negotiations the rock was returned to its original location in 1998. It was 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 was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1933.[3]


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:

Books about Flynn include:

See also


  1. Bucknall, Graeme (1981). "Flynn, John (1880–1951)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  2. "John Flynn (1880 – 1951) Presbyterian minister". A tribute to Influential Australian Christians. 22 October 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  3. "It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours".
  4. "About Qantas - News Room - Media Releases - Qantas A380s to Honour Our Aviation Pioneers".
  5. "Flynn church opens today". The Argus (Melbourne). Victoria, Australia. 5 May 1956. p. 5. Retrieved 21 November 2016 via National Library of Australia.
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