John Flynn and the flying doctors

The Flynn community has a long-established association with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the memory of its founder, the Very Reverend John Flynn.

The association is seen in:

National memorial to John Flynn

An Australian national memorial commemorates the birth of one of Australia’s great heroes, the Very Reverend John Flynn—founder of the Flying Doctor Service and the Australian Inland Mission.

This independent Memorial was, and still is, treasured by the community. From the moment that Flynn became a suburb there was interest in Reverend John Flynn. The Flynn community spent two years researching and contacting people from the Australian Inland Mission in the lead-up to the 1980 centenary of John Flynn’s birth. Much of the original correspondence was from Mrs Jean Flynn and family members of George Simpson, after whom George Simpson Park was named in 1983.

Flynn school, grounds and memorial

Memorial to the Very Reverend John Flynn

In reference to Reverend Flynn, the memorial plaque says: ‘He brought gladness and rejoicing to the wilderness and the solitary places’.

The memorial was unveiled in 1980 with a large celebration that included many dignitaries such as relatives of John Flynn’s Royal Flying Doctor’s colleagues and representatives of the Australian Inland Mission, Presbyterian Church and the Dunolly Goldfields Historical and Arts Society (Victoria) (see their website for more a description of the day and some more information about the life of John Flynn).

This Memorial was commissioned by the then National Capital Development Commission and approved by the Canberra National Memorials Committee and by the then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Leader of the Opposition Bill Hayden.

It was rededicated in August 2007 following removal of the plaque by the ACT Education Department after the nearby school was closed in 2006. The department had removed the plaque and obliterated the memorial wall by concreting over the engraved Flynn name during May. ACT Government representatives returned the stolen and damaged plaque without apology or admission of wrongdoing to the National Capital Authority on July 13 2007.

The Flynn community appreciates the support of all those who helped secure the return of this significant national memorial to its rightful place.

Memorial to the Reverend John Flynn, dedication 1980

Memorial to the Reverend John Flynn, dedication 1980

Memorial to the Reverend John Flynn, dedication 1980

Memorial to the Reverend John Flynn, dedication 1980

Shape of the building

Plan view of Flynn school building

Plan view of Flynn school building

In plan view, the building’s aeroplane shape reminds Flynn people of the association with John Flynn and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Each generation of children that attended the school learned about John Flynn and the Flying Doctors and proudly wore the Flying Doctor’s biplane on the school uniform. It is not recorded who first made the observation that the school building resembled the Flying Doctor’s biplane but it became firmly established in the life of the school and community being passed on from each generation of children, their families and their teachers. By the time the school closed in 2006, the biplane shape of the school was a well known ‘fact’.

At a school assembly in 2006, Flynn children questioned architect Enrico Taglietti about the building’s aeroplane shape. Enrico expressed delight that the community had interpreted it in this way as he said architecture (the school) was there to be interpreted and used by the community.

Together with national memorial and significant artefacts the building’s shape serves as an ongoing reminder of the origin of the suburb’s name and the strong association that the community continues to have with Jogn Flynn and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Community association

The community’s association with the Royal Flying Doctor Service went beyond these physical connections. Activities aimed at raising funds for the Flying Doctors were held each year at the school. School productions, such as Wakakiri performances, centred on the life and work of John Flynn and artwork at the school, including the current backdrop in the school hall, show this association.

A major activity was the school excursion to the inland to visit places of significance to John Flynn and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. This includes Flynn’s grave, Royal Flying Doctor Service offices and other places.

After the school closed, Flynn community members maintained the link with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, attending its 80th birthday celebrations at Bankstown Airport, displaying some of the memorabilia that had been rescued from the school.

With the government finally allowing the building to be used again by the community from 2012, a museum and cultural centre has been proposed to carry on the community’s connection to the Very Reverend John Flynn and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Do you have more information?

If you have some more information about some of the fundraising activities at the school, the excursion to the inland or other activities, please contact us.

Images from Flynn

Angles on the textured concrete walls


Flynn grounds

Landscape setting & grounds

Enrico Taglietti visting the school he designed

History and design

Memorial to John Flynn

Memorial to John Flynn