100 years at the heart of remote Australia on display

10 August 2012


A photographic display which captures John Flynn’s vision for the heart of the nation and how it became a reality opens at the National Library of Australia in Canberra today, Friday, 10 August.

NLA BabiesOne of Flynn's photos to go on display: three AIM nurses with seven newborn babiesRunning for one year, the display, Beyond the Furthest Fences: the Australian Inland Mission, features photos detailing the early work of the Australian Inland Mission (AIM), which began a century ago.

Flynn’s dream was to create a mantle of safety for people living in the outback, despite the challenges of distance and isolation. He presented a report to the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church which resulted in the establishment of the AIM on 26 September, 1912.

The display tells the story of how the AIM began setting up nursing posts and hospitals across the outback. Sisters travelled by camel, horse, rail and even motor tricycle. Patrol padres were sent out to provide pastoral care and to extend a hand of friendship to the people of the outback.

Flynn’s drive to improve conditions for people in the outback led to the development of the Aerial Medical Service, which later became the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and soon after the pedal-powered radio. Both saved countless lives.  

Flynn was an avid photographer and his photos, many featured in the display, extensively document the early work of the AIM. He used the photographs to promote the organisation in publications and at lectures across the country.

Visitors to the display will get an insight into the lives of people in the outback a century ago and the dedication and commitment of those who were there to help.

Photos on display include AIM nurses performing a dental check-up, a family operating a pedal wireless on an outback verandah, school children riding camels in Innamincka and two patrol padres pulling a car bogged on the Cape York track.

Frontier Services, the successor in the Uniting Church to the AIM, continues to provide the support and care needed to build strong and resilient communities across remote Australia. A thousand staff provide 120 vital services, including aged and community care, children’s services, health care, community support, volunteer assistance and patrol ministry.

A commemorative Centenary book, At the very heart, will be launched at the National Library on 29 August with lectures from author Storry Walton AM and historian Rob Linn, who will reflect on the beginning of the AIM and the work across the century.

Beyond the Furthest Fences: the Australian Inland Mission collection opens on 10 August 2012 and runs until 11 August 2013. It is a free display on the Fourth Floor, National Library of Australia, Canberra.