Father Frank Flynn

July 20, 2017

As Guide Dogs became more widely known, thanks to the efforts of some of our widely travelled ambassadors in the 1960s, residents in many regional areas keenly set about establishing Auxiliaries in their own areas.

Father Frank Flynn was one of those who, despite an exceptionally busy life, dedicated time to become President of the Darwin Auxiliary in 1967.

Despite being from a vastly different background Father Flynn spent over 25 years in Northern Territory and earned the right to call the North 'my country'.  Born in Sydney he was educated in Darlinghurst and the University of Sydney from where he graduated with a first class honours in Medicine. He went on to Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital in various roles and achieving amazing breakthroughs in eye-surgery.

In the 1960s Frank himself was afflicted with kerato conjunctivitis sicca ("dry eyes"), a painful complaint that can lead to partial or total blindness.  Fr Flynn experimented in gravity feeding artificial tears and working with Mr A  Sculmeister, a skilled technician of Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, he perfected the invention of gravity feed tanks built into the frame of his glasses feeding artificial tears via Teflon ducts into the corner of the eyes.  These glasses became generally used for the relief of dry eye sufferers.

On his return to Australia he became an eye specialist in Macquarie Street, Sydney.  It was here that he made the final decision to give away material and financial success to embrace his ever increasing desire to a 'wonderful life of fulfilment' by joining the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.  Ordained in 1942 he served in the army doubling as a chaplain and consultant eye specialist.

Appointed as Regional Superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart for Darwin Diocese in 1946 he remained part time priest for the RAAF, consultant eye specialist and anthropologist as well as an author of many articles and books relating to his experiences.  He developed a keen interest in the appallingly high level of trachoma amongst Aboriginal people but it wasn't until 1976 that an Australia wide survey of trachoma amongst Australian Aboriginals was started under the directorship of Professor Fred Hollows.  Flynn was appointed as advisor and Hollows regarded him as his mentor, referring to him as "the man behind his fight for sight".  The two men formed a friendship that lasted until Hollows' death in1993.

Although his term as President of the Guide Dogs Darwin Auxiliary was short, he was transferred to Port Moresby with the Missionary in 1968, it is evident that his dedication and tireless work had a huge impact on the lives of the vision impaired in the Northern Territories, particularly the Aboriginal community. 

Guide Dogs NT continue to provide assistance and guidance to the Territories Aboriginal population, even in the more far flung communities.

Today we pay tribute to Father Flynn.