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John Flynn the Founder

The story of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is forever linked with its founder, the Reverend John Flynn – Flynn of the Inland – a story of achievement that gave courage to the pioneers of the Inland.

John Flynn’s vision of providing a “Mantle of Safety” (as he called it) for the people of  the Inland can be traced to the years immediately preceding World War I, when the Presbyterian Church’s Australian Inland Mission (AIM) was one of several church bodies undertaking missionary way in the Inland.

The AIM was conscious of the terrible isolation of Inland people, who were so remote from medical and religious care. John Flynn began his missionary work in 1912, at a time when only two doctors served an area of some 300,000 square kilometres in Western Australia and 1,500,000 square kilometres in the Northern Territory. It did not take long to realise that air transport and radio were needed to break the isolation of the Inland and to provide adequate medical care for its people. However he had to wait many years before he could translate his vision of a flying doctor service into practice.

Aircraft at that time were not suited for ambulance work and radio was then very much in its infancy. In October 1918 John Flynn published an article outlining the feasibility of air transport in the Inland and its possible use for air ambulance work. The article was written by a young Australian medical student, Clifford Peel who was killed in action, in France during World War 1, while serving with the Australian Flying Corps. However, as developments demonstrated, Peel was ahead of his time. Despite the great difficulties facing him, John Flynn worked towards the fulfillment of his vision with an extraordinary tenacity that was borne out of true compassion for the people of the Inland.

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