Sunday, September 20, 2009

John Flynn

Who is John Flynn?

I have no idea. Maybe he's related to Errol Flynn.

Lord Wiki says Flynn is the guy who started the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

He's another hero.

Good. I like reading about heroes. They restore my faith in humanity.

Baby John was born on 25 November 1880. His birthday was a few days after mine. He was born in Victoria, in a goldrush town called Moliagul. Moliagul's claim to fame is John Flynn himself, and also a huge chunk of gold was found there.

During the goldrush days, Moliagul was well populated. Lord Wiki says that now it's pretty much deserted. This Sydney Morning Herald article says that it has stuff for tourists though.

When Flynn was three, his mother died in childbirth. I wonder if the baby survived.

Lord Wiki says Flynn spent a lot of his time with relatives. I wonder where his father was.  Maybe he was digging for gold?

At one point, Flynn moved to a suburb in Melbourne called Braybrook Junction. Braybrook Junction's name has been changed to Sunshine. I think I prefer Braybrook Junction. Sunshine is a little too....

I don't know.

The Sunshine name has been there for a long time though....since 1907. It's named after a Agricultural Machinery business. Although I'm not sure where the machinery business got the name.

When Flynn was finished with secondary school, he became a teacher. He did that for about five years, and then decided he wanted to be a Presbyterian minister. Flynn went to Ormond College which is part of the University of Melbourne. He studied divinity. In 1910, he graduated. In 1911, he was ordained. I guess he was about thirty-one by the time he became a minister.

While Flynn had been training to become a minister, he spent a lot of time in remote rural areas. Then after he was ordained, he went to work at a mission in a small town called Beltana. Beltana is in South Australia, about seven hours north of Adelaide. I'm looking at Google Maps now. It looks pretty damn isolated. I'm not seeing any major towns near it. From what I see, Port Augusta is the closest. That's about three hours away.

Flynn wrote a paper for the church about how it's hard to minister to such a spread out community. The Presbyterian Church than made a program called the Australian Inland Mission. Flynn was the first superintendent of the program.

The Australian Inland Mission is now called Frontier Services. I shall look at their website later.

As Flynn worked in these rural isolated communities, he realized the people needed more than just the word of God. They needed medical services.

Flynn helped establish some bush hospitals. This still wasn't enough though. From about 1917, Flynn tried to think of ways to use radio and airplanes to help people. Then an Australian pilot contacted Flynn with information about planes. With the information the pilot provided, Flynn was able to publish a paper in the church's magazine. He also began the task of fundraising.

In 1928 the Royal Flying Doctor Service had their first flight. It involved Cloncurry Queensland. I'm not sure if they flew TO Cloncurry, or away from Cloncurry. Maybe I'll figure that out later. Well, wait. Lord Wiki does say that it flew FROM there. But then where did it end up going? Who did they help? Or maybe that's confidential information.

Flynn didn't get married until he was fifty-one. Wow. He was a bachelor for quite awhile. He died in Sydney twenty years after he had gotten married. He's buried in the Devil's Marbles. That would be a pretty cool place to be buried. Although it was a bit of a problem. Those who buried Flynn used a rock that is sacred to Indigenous Australians. Big oops there.

Forty-seven years after the mistake, people FINALLY made things right. They traded in the controversial rock with a rock that was kosher to use.

Since his death, Flynn has been honored in various ways. He's on the twenty dollar note. There's an electoral division in Queensland named after him. It's pretty new actually. They formed it in 2007. And Qantas is planning to name an airplane after him.

All right. I'm done with Lord Wiki for now. I'm going to do some education stuff with Jack. Then I'll look at some other websites....

I'm back. I'm going to look at the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Let's see....

Daddy Flynn was a school teacher. That's what John Flynn ended up doing for awhile. The reason he didn't go to university right away is because he couldn't afford it. Instead he got the teaching job. The website says that while teaching, Flynn developed an interest in first aid and photography. So the medical aspects of his ministry didn't pop out of nowhere. If he hadn't been interested in first aid, would he have paid so much attention to rural medical needs? He may have overlooked it.

In 1911, Flynn volunteered for a mission in the northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia.

Around this time, Flynn did an examination of the lives of people in the Northern Territory. He wrote up that paper Lord Wiki talked about. One thing led to another and we eventually got the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

This all reminds me of McLeod's Daughters. People would have medical emergencies on the show, and it would take so long for the ambulance to get there. I think there's something attractive about living far out away from everyone. Life in the city and suburbs can feel quite crowded. But it's scary to think what might happen if you're injured.

From 1913 to 1937, Flynn had a magazine. It was called The Inlander. The magazine pushed for people to give assistance to those in rural areas. He didn't just advocate helping white folks. He wanted to help the black folks as well. He said, We who so cheerfully sent a cheque for £100,000 to Belgium to help a people pushed out of their own inheritance by foreigners—surely we must just as cheerfully do something for those whom we clean-handed people have dispossessed in the interests of superior culture.

It sounds like John Flynn was a pretty smart guy.

Although there is a guy who disagrees. A doctor and Aboriginal rights campaigner named Charles Duguid wrote a book that made accusations against Flynn. In the book, he said that Flynn acted indifferent to the struggle of the Indigenous Australians. He also claimed that Flynn's hospitals refused to treat Aborigines.

Wow. What should I believe here? Maybe it's not all black and white. Maybe it's in the grey. Maybe Flynn did help the Indigenous Australians, but perhaps in Duguid's eyes he didn't do enough.

Lord Wiki may have been lying about the whole buried-under-a-sacred-rock thing. This website (which I sort of trust more) says his ashes were placed at Mt Gillen in Alice Springs. Is that even near the Devil's Marbles?

Wait. No. Lord Wiki might be right.

Oh! I got it. Both Lord Wiki AND the biographical dictionary are right...well, unless this Aboriginal Land Right website is lying to me too. I don't think they are. I'm going to trust them.

What they say is that a rock was taken from the Devil's Marble. What did those people do after that....steal a boulder from Stonehenge? Flynn had told people he wanted to be buried at Mt. Gillan. He had climbed it, and decided he liked it. Mrs. Flynn was inspired by a Jesus story in which a rock is rolled to Jesus' grave. She wanted to do that for her husband. So she stole something sacred from another group's religion. I know. She probably didn't do it on purpose. I'm sure it wasn't a vicious act. It was just a thoughtless one.

I still don't know whether Flynn was buried or cremated. It hardly matters though.

I'm going to return to the Frontier Services Website. They say they have a staff of 450. That doesn't seem like a lot of people. They provide all kinds of services to those in rural areas. This includes medical help, childcare, pastoral support, etc.

On the history page, they talk about what the services were like before the airplane. Nurses would travel around by camel, horse, train, motorbike, etc. I bet that would look so cute. But it's probably not so cute when your father is trapped under a giant piece of machinery, and you need him out of there fast.

The two way radio played a very big part in the services of the organization. It helped people communicate; lessoned some aspects of isolation. I wonder how much it's used now though. I imagine the Internet must be making things a bit easier. What's Internet service like in the outback?

Frontier Services has a volunteer program. It sounds pretty cool. I like that they don't just ask for money. Sometimes people prefer to help in a more tangible way. They say what people in the outback need is often short term free help. Life out there can be quite rough. Money might be a bit tight. There might be a thousand jobs to do, and the farmers can't afford to pay anyone to do some of the extra work. So to have some free help would probably be most welcomed.

Now the Royal Flying Doctors Service has their own website. This confuses me a bit. I guess they're part of Frontier Services? Or is it just two separate organizations that were started by Flynn?

This page of their site explains what they do.

They have clinics in remote areas. These are places people can go to get vaccines, health checks, dental checks, etc. I guess it's like a doctor's office.

They provide people with radio and telephone consultations. Okay, but why not email? Is there no Internet in the outback? I do get very little people from the Northern Territory on my Statcounter. I just figured my blog was less interesting to people there. I never considered the fact that they might have very limited Internet access.

The main aspect of the Flying doctor organization probably lies in their name. Sometimes you need a bigger and better hospital. A small clinic will often not do the trick. So they'll fly people to where they need to go.

The website has statistics for the year 2007. They did 35,089 aeromedical evacuations. That's a lot of people getting hurt. I hope most of them were saved.

The website has a biography of Flynn. I'll read it to see if there's anything Lord Wiki or the other site missed. OR I might have ignored stuff on the other websites, and now I'll be ready to listen.

Flynn had two older siblings. From what this biography says, the baby didn't survive when Flynn's mother died in childbirth.

Flynn first became attracted to the idea of the outback when his father had some kind of business dealing over there. The business deal was unsuccessful though. Oh well.

Flynn helped write and publish a book called The Bushman's Companion. It became a bestseller. I wonder if it's still available today.

I'm not finding it easily via google. I'm guessing it's out of print.

What I'm really confused about is the connection between The Royal Flying Doctor Service and Frontier Services.

Okay, I'm looking at the latter's website again. They say, In 1928, he formed the AIM Aerial Medical Service which later became a separate organisation called The Royal Flying Doctor Service. But the RFDS provides more than just flights. They provide medical clinics and all that. I guess in many ways they provide similar services. They have the same founder and the same type of goals. I wonder why they don't just combine the organizations. Although maybe Frontier Services is more Christian-oriented. RFDS seems more secular.

There's a church in Alice Springs named after Flynn. It's called the John Flynn Memorial Uniting Church. The story goes that Flynn wanted a church were people of all faiths could pray together. That's what this church is supposed to be? When they say all faiths, does that include religions outside of Christianity?

I'm going to read what Lord Wiki has to say about the Uniting Church. He says it's a merging of the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational Union. Okay. That's reuniting three types of Christianity. Three branches of Christianity does not equal all faiths. Who knows though...maybe the church in Alice Springs is special. Maybe they invite people of all religions to pray there. Although then the goal in mind might be to eventually CONVERT all these people.

I do think some religious groups and missions are helpful. Sometimes they truly do help people in need. But despite the good they may do, if their main goal is to bring us heathens to Jesus....I don't support them. I guess the only way to help a Christian understand my position is to say this. What if a Christian family was in dire need. What if they suffered in poverty? They didn't have enough food. They didn't have medicine. They didn't have books or school materials. It would be nice if I came along and brought them food and medicine. It would be nice if I donated books to them. However, how would the Christian parents feel if all the books I brought promoted my NeoPaganism? And what if the only way to receive food from my NeoPagan mission was to hear me preach about how my religion was the right one? Even if I used more subtle tactics, would that be okay? What if I simply decorated our office with Pagan gods? What if I handed out cute little Pagan booklets to the children? How would the Christian parents feel about this? How would they feel when their children and neighbors started converting?

I think a mission is fine as long as they provide their services because they truly want to help people. If they want to help people only because they want to convert people, then I'm totally not okay with it.

It reminds me of this awful thing I saw from the Jewish Community during Hurricane Katrina. I got some email from some Jewish Organization. I forgot the exact words they used. But the general idea we that we as Jews need to show people how giving Jews can be. It seemed like they wanted to use the hurricane as an opportunity for self-promotion. That's not what it should have been about.

Still, in the end, when people need help, the motivations behind helping don't matter so much. If you're starving, you just want something to put in your stomach. You probably don't care if someone is handing you that piece of bread because they have empathy and a good heart. It probably doesn't matter whether they're promoting their Church or their corporation. You probably just want to eat, and you want your children to eat.

I just feel that if we are blessed enough to be in the position to give, we shouldn't exploit that opportunity too much. Beggars shouldn't be choosers. Yeah. I agree. But the givers shouldn't be stingy and/or manipulative.

From what I've read about Flynn, I feel he truly did want to help. I think he truly cared. It's refreshing for me to hear positive stories about Christians.

Here's a public service announcement for the RFDS. If I wasn't so grossed out by bodily fluids, and I didn't mind small airplanes, I'd definitely want to join the RFDS. My sister and her husband are in the medical fields. If I was them, I'd totally move to Australia and become a flying doctor. But if they actually do that, I'd be incredibly jealous. So, hopefully they won't.....Although visiting them, would give me a good excuse to visit Australia on a more regular basis.

I just thought of something. I bet The Koala Brothers was inspired by John Flynn and the RFDS. Although I don't think Frank and Buster provide medical assistance. They're more likely to assist with sharing issues and finding a lost stuffed animal.