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John Flynn grand opening celebrates community

Written by Margot Taylor
on March 14, 2024

A permanent tribute to one of Australia’s greatest pioneers, Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) founder John Flynn, has officially opened.

Ryman Healthcare’s award-winning $277 million Burwood East retirement living and aged care community was named in honour of the founder of the world’s first air ambulance service.

More than 200 people attended the opening yesterday, including RFDS CEO Scott Chapman, Federal MP for Chisholm Dr Carina Garland, State Member for Box Hill Paul Hamer, City of Whitehorse Mayor Cr Denise Massoud and Ryman Healthcare Group CEO Richard Umbers.


While Flynn’s ethos of compassionate care is mirrored in the outstanding care offered to residents at the village, his legacy is also honoured in the village’s interior design with priceless memorabilia on display, including a wooden desk from which he drafted plans for the RFDS, promotional posters, and a specially-commissioned rug featuring a De Havilland Dragon aircraft motif.

Ryman Australia CEO Cameron Holland said all Ryman villages were imbued with a unique sense of the outstanding individual they were named after, and like Flynn himself, John Flynn Retirement Village had overcome challenges to achieve outstanding things.

“Flynn once said, ‘If you start something worthwhile nothing can stop it’,” Mr Holland said.

“The construction of the village faced huge challenges outside of our control during COVID-19, but few villages have had as much success as John Flynn.

“It’s Ryman Australia’s fastest-selling village, village manager Roslyn Prentice was named ‘Village Manager of the Year’ at the 2022 National Retirement Living Awards, sales advisor Michelle Shaw is a finalist in the Retirement Living Council’s ‘Salesperson of the Year’ category and the village is also in the running for ‘Best Retirement Living Development’ at the same awards.”

Cameron also revealed the village was last week named a finalist in the ‘Facility of the Year (Ageing in Place)’ category of the Asia-Pacific Eldercare Innovation Awards to be held in Singapore in May.

Ryman Healthcare Group CEO Richard Umbers said while the Christchurch-head quartered company celebrates turning 40 this year, 2024 also marks 10 years since it opened its first Australian village.

“Ryman is no longer a New Zealand business operating in Australia, but a truly Trans-Tasman organisation that embodies the very best of the Anzac spirit,” Mr Umbers said.

“We have transitioned form being a new entrant and a disrupter to an established, respected player in the Australian sector, with eight operational villages and six more in the development pipeline."

JFL - Grand Opening - Media Release-8 (1)

Ryman Group CEO Richard Umbers (left) and Ryman Australia CEO Cameron Holland.


RFDS CEO Scott Chapman said the mission of the RFDS and Ryman was one and the same.

“We are about better physical health, we are about better mental health, and like Ryman we are about strong community and social health, and that can only be achieved by building communities that bring people together,” he said.

“We do that in small, isolated rural towns and on stations, you’re doing it through the retirement villages you’ve created.”

JFL - Grand Opening - Media Release-6 (1)
Royal Flying Doctor Service CEO Scott Chapman (left) and Ryman Australia CEO Cameron Holland.


Mr Chapman was thrilled the RFDS was Ryman’s 2024 charity partner. Throughout the year residents at Ryman’s seven Victorian villages will raise funds for the charity with Ryman to match the amount raised.

“It’s an important day for Ryman Healthcare and all of you, it’s also a very important day for the Royal Flying Doctor,” Mr Chapman said.

“It’s tremendous to be a great partner of Ryman.”

Following the speeches, a specially recorded message by actress Emma Hamilton, who plays Dr Eliza Harrod on the RFDS television series, was played.

A portrait of Flynn by internationally renowned Rye artist Vicki Sullivan was also unveiled.

JFL - Grand Opening - Media Release-5 (1)

‘Portrait of John Flynn’ was painted by Sullivan over four months.

“It’s always more challenging when a portrait is posthumous,” she said.

“John Flynn was a visionary man, and I tried to capture that visionary look in his eye.”

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