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Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Page: 9271


Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (23:07): I rise this evening to acknowledge and pay tribute to an amazing organisation that in 2012 is celebrating 100 years of providing assistance to, building and sustaining communities in remote Australia. That organisation is Frontier Services, formerly known as the Australian Inland Mission. A brief summary of the history of this organisation will cause many of us to recall the facts learned in Australian history classes from our days at school. It may even cause us to remember our history each time we touch a $20 note.

At the very heart of this story is the work of John Flynn—the man whose face is on your $20 note. Flynn was born in the Central Goldfields in Victoria in 1880. He became a teacher and then a missionary of the Presbyterian Church. John Flynn was very interested in the plight of people living in the bush. His missions to shearing sheds in remote parts of Victoria gave him particular insights into the worlds of families living in isolation and dealing with all the issues associated with remote living. And, like many great Australians, John Flynn was a person who was not afraid to take action and do what he believed to be right. In the book which was launched this year marking 100 years of this organisation, National Director of Frontier Services Rosemary Young said: 'Reverend John Flynn had a clear understanding of what was necessary to build and sustain community in remote Australia.'

Flynn was ordained as a minister in 1911 and in 1912 was commissioned to survey the conditions of both Aboriginal and European residents of the inland and report back to the Presbyterian Assembly. His findings were accepted and resulted in the establishment of the Australian Inland Mission. Flynn was appointed as its first superintendent. He was concerned about the vast distances and the lack of adequate medical assistance for people in the bush. His vision was that the Australian Inland Mission should provide a 'mantle of safety' so sustainable communities could be established in spite of the hardships and difficulties experienced by those living in the inland.

Regardless of gender, race or religion, the Australian Inland Mission delivered pastoral care, counselling and medical services. Medical services were delivered via nursing hostels and hospitals, each one having a close relationship with a padre who regularly visited on patrol either by camel, horse, rail or motor vehicle—whatever mode of transport was available at the time Flynn was a dreamer—a man with big ideas about what could be done to assist those living in inland Australia. He believed that the delivery of medical assistance and pastoral services would help to encourage women to accompany their men folk to live in and develop the isolated parts of the country. He believed that the existence of families was an integral component for sustainable communities in Australia.

John Flynn died in 1951. During his 39 years as superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission he had achieved enormous gains and faced significant local and global challenges. World War I, the Depression and World War II had all been faced during his leadership.

But his commitment to the people of the inland saw lasting achievements delivered by the Australian Inland Mission. Visiting nursing sisters were followed by the establishment of permanent medical facilities. His vision for the use of aircraft to conquer vast distances, particularly in terms of medical care, led to the establishment of the now famous Royal Flying Doctor Service. This service continues to provide vital support to those living in inland Australia.

The widespread use of two-way radios to improve communication and overcome isolation lessened the distance and allowed voices to be heard. The use of community hubs for delivering pastoral services as well as medical services and the establishment of aged-care facilities in these remote towns were all part of Flynn's vision to establish that 'mantle of safety' so that people could build sustainable communities, despite the hardship and challenges of outback life. At the celebration of the Frontier Services centenary at Dallas Brook Theatre in Melbourne in September, Minister Simon Crean said: 'What strikes me as Flynn's greatest attribute is that he not only saw the problem and came up with a solution—he delivered the solution.'

I have had a look back at the history of this organisation and pulled out a few dates as dot points along the way. In 1926, Flynn was responsible for the first successful wireless communication between Alice Springs and Hermannsburg. In 1936, the Tennant Creek Welfare Club opened. In 1936, Barkly Federal Methodist Inland Mission was established. In 1939, AIM transferred its Aerial Medical Service to a new national organisation and the Flying Doctor Service of Australia was created. In 1948, Griffiths House in Alice Springs opened to provide accommodation for school children. It is now known as St Phillips College. In 1949, Old Timers was established in Alice Springs. In 1954, even at Batchelor at Rum Jungle, the Welfare Club was established. In 1958, the Children's Hostel opened in Darwin. In 1983, the Tennant Creek Nursing Home opened. And the list goes on and on.

In 1977, the Uniting Church was established and the inland missions of the Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist Churches were combined to form Frontier Services. Flynn's vision for outback people continues to be implemented today, with over 1,000 staff nationally in over 120 services, with 3,000 volunteers covering 7.5 million square kilometres—85 per cent of the landmass of this country—and 21 patrol ministers supporting more than 15,000 families. I am very familiar with and admire the work of Frontier Services in the Northern Territory and I want to use this speech tonight to pay tribute to their dedicated and professional staff, who continue to provide an amazing range of services and support to the communities they serve in the Territory.

A snapshot of the NT and Frontier Services takes you to the Mutitjulu Child Care Centre and Mutitjulu Community Care, Respite and Aged Care in Tennant Creek, Old Timers Village and Hetti Perkins in Alice Springs, the Katherine Hostel, Rocky Ridge and Stepping Stone—also in Katherine—Terrace Gardens, Tracey Aged Care and the Juninga Centre in Darwin, to name but just a few of the many services available. Frontier Services continues to deliver support so that regardless of where people live, they are within reach. The provision of medical, social and spiritual support is at the centre of the activities undertaken by Frontier Services. The dedication of the staff, their willingness to engage locally and the organisation's commitment to regional development ensures that John Flynn's legacy continues to deliver.

To Jan Trengrove, the chairperson, and to the board members of Frontier Services, past and present, I say that your work and vision ensure that Frontier Services maintains relevance in inland Australia. Your vision statement says:

In remote areas of Australia, reconciliation will become reality, hope will replace anxiety and despair, justice and equity will build community and everyone will have access to the services they need as we journey together.

Frontier Services—and not only in the Northern Territory but right around this country—congratulations on celebrating 100 years of working in and at the heart of inland Australia. I give you my very best wishes for a very grand vision and good luck for the next 100 years.