From little things, big things grow

25 September 2014

Flynn in Echuca AIM AnnivFrontier Services celebrates 102nd anniversary

Friday, 26 September, marks the 102nd anniversary of Rev John Flynn being commissioned to head the Australian Inland Mission.

Flynn’s vision was to spread across the Inland a ‘Mantle of Safety’, bringing aviation, radio, medicine, spiritual comfort, gladness and rejoicing to the lonely and isolated people of the outback.

All these years later, it is sobering to realise that so many of the issues Flynn contended with in 1912 are still very much part of life in remote areas of Australia.

How ironic that, despite the many advances and technological innovations of modern transport and telecommunications, we nevertheless still have individuals and communities at the heart of our country who don’t enjoy the levels of access and equity that we have come to expect in urban centres.

An almost perfect storm of environmental, economic and social factors continues to place great pressure on people living in remote and isolated places.

The collapse of many traditional industries, the reduction of services and infrastructural support, shrinking populations in small townships and the commercial consolidation of family-owned properties into multi-national stations, have changed the landscape in remote Australia.

The fly-in-fly-out employment practices of many mining and resource operations, ongoing difficulties in employment prospects and burgeoning mental health issues too often lead families into tragic circumstances.  On top of this is the ever-present spectre of drought, floods and other unpredictable environmental conditions. Each contribute to the problem in a different way. Cumulatively, their impact can be devastating.

The need for humanity, for family services and for assistance outreach to remote Australia is far greater than ever before.

So, today, we look back for inspiration and hope as we move forward.

On 26 September, 1912, the Federal Assembly of the Presbyterian Church handed Flynn an enormous task as he was appointed ‘Organising Agent and Superintendent’ of what was later named the ‘Australian Inland Mission’.

 “Flynn planned a 3,000 mile journey through the outback from Oodnadatta to Birdsville, but he was counselled otherwise. The first demands were an organisation, publicity and the raising of finance. Reluctantly, Flynn agreed.  And so, for months on end, he did extensive tours through the eastern states. From Townsville to Hobart, from Melbourne to Adelaide, he delivered addresses and lectures. With the aid of maps, lantern slides and anecdotes of need he pressed his case.”

– adapted from John Flynn Apostle to the Inland by W. Scott McPheat

And so the beginning of a great tradition was born. Today Frontier Services, with its heritage in pioneering work of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches, continues to reach out to people of the outback.

Frontier Services finds great hope in the commitment and resilience of the communities we partner with and support.  Through an extensive nationwide network of patrol ministry, community services and volunteerism, the Uniting Church in Australia, through Frontier Services, actively supports and sustains this treasure that lies at the heart of our nation.

And support remote Australia we must, as every single day we share in the riches gleaned from the hard work, resilience and dedication of people in the outback: environmentally, economically, historically, spiritually.  

Happy Birthday, Frontier Services. Long may we all continue to provide remote Australia with a “Mantle of Safety”.