Reverend John Flynn and the Australian Inland Mission – Fact sheet 159

John Flynn: 'Flynn of the Inland'

John Flynn was born in 1880 and educated in Melbourne. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1911 he was commissioned by his church to visit the Northern Territory in 1912 and report on its missionary needs. His report, Northern Territory and Central Australia – A Call to the Church, was considered by the Presbyterian General Assembly and as a result he was appointed field superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission (AIM), a position he held for the next 39 years.

The vast distances of the Territory and the lack of adequate medical facilities concerned Flynn and from 1917 onwards he founded a series of nursing services in remote locations. Taking advantage of the rapid development of aviation in the 1920s, Flynn was instrumental in the formation of the AIM Aerial Medical Service in 1928. The effectiveness of the service was ensured by the invention of the Traeger pedal radio in 1929. With several name changes, the AIM Aerial Medical Service became the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 1954.

Flynn was also concerned with providing shelter for the older population of Central Australia and in 1949 he designed the first cottage to be built at the Old Timers' Settlement in Alice Springs.

John Flynn was awarded an OBE in 1933, and served as Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church from 1939 until 1942. He died in July 1951 and his ashes were placed in a commemorative grave on Larapinta Drive, a few kilometres west of Alice Springs. A church dedicated to Flynn's memory was completed in Alice Springs in 1956.

A novel by author Ion Idriess, loosely based on Flynn's life, was published in 1932 under the title Flynn of the Inland.

Records held by the National Archives relating to John Flynn

A number of records relating to John Flynn, the Australian Inland Mission and the Royal Flying Doctor Service are held by National Archives' offices in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin. A selection of items held is listed below.

Records relating to John Flynn and the Australian Inland Mission

John Flynn and Flynn memorials


 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemNT, Flying Doctor Service – Federal Council commemorative structure to Rev. Dr John Flynn1944–51A431, 1951/1271
ItemVery Rev. John Flynn – honour1950A463, 1959/3703



 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemRev. John Flynn – memorial church named after the founder of the Flying Doctor Service1941–60M914, NT752


Australian Inland Mission and the Royal Flying Doctor Service






 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemFlying Doctor. NT medical service1934–38F1, 1936/651
ItemFlying Doctor. Barkly Tablelands1937F1, 1937/375
ItemFlying Doctor. NT medical service1937–39F1, 1939/6
ItemGovernment aircraft – Flying Doctor1937–39F1, 1940/360
ItemDoctor service circulars1941–53F742, 1945/289M
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