Rev Dr Fred McKay AC, CMG, OBE

Rev Dr Fred McKay founded St Philip's College after he saw an urgent need to provide residential accommodation in Alice Springs that would allow children to be educated in the Territory rather than travel interstate. 

Fred’s ability to inspire people to help him turn plans into reality was legendary.  Thanks to his vision and commitment (he camped on site while it was built) as well as the hard work of many people, St Philip’s was opened as a boarding hostel in 1965.

"Flynn of the Inland, my boss, used to talk about 'the best for the bush'. St Philip's College fulfils the Flynnian ideal".


Fred was a great Australian, confidante of the battler in the Outback, of prime ministers and servicemen, Fred McKay put his stamp on the nation as a compassionate, capable and practical man who loved people and had a natural ability to lead and inspire to them.  Instrumental in encouraging the Presbyterian Methodist and Congregational churches to work together in Northern Australia, his success led ultimately to the establishment in Australia of the Uniting Church.

Successor to John Flynn, Superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission, whose vision and work he celebrated and upheld throughout his long career, Fred McKay extended Flynn’s Mantle of Safety to become a Mantle of Caring for the people of the remote regions of Australia.

Hand picked by John Flynn at the age of 28 to become his “boundary rider” in the remote regions where Flynn was still working to establish bases for the Flying Doctor Service, Fred developed a deep-seated love for the people of inland Australia and strove to see health, education and aged care facilities developed to meet their urgent needs.

His concern was for Aboriginal and white Australians alike.  In his first years as a patrol padre for the Australian Inland Mission he established Aboriginal annexes at the various AIM hospitals in Central Australia in order to provide appropriate care for these members of the Outback community. 
 
In Alice Springs he argued for the retention and ultimate development of the Old Timers aged care facility, as well as playing a “hands-on” role in the construction of the John Flynn Memorial Church and St Philip’s College as a residential hostel for primary and secondary school age children whose education depended on their being able to attend various government schools in the town.
 
Fred McKay was a practical and charismatic man, able to fire the enthusiasm of Australians everywhere.  At his request they came as volunteer labourers to see both the Flynn Memorial Church and St Philip’s College completed.  He was the inspiration behind the legendary ecumenical work parties whose members came in the name of Christian service; a legacy which continues to this day.

Each year since the official opening of St Philip’s College in 1965, work parties comprised of members of the Uniting Church, mainly in Victoria, have come to Central Australia to continue this important missionary work.

As a patrol padre the Rev Fred McKay conducted a tailboard ministry for the people in the Outback, but he also earned the respect of the country’s top businessmen and political leaders which helped him to achieve a great deal in his efforts to build a vital infrastructure of support services for the people in inland Australia.

Within his own church he rose to the ranks of Moderator of the Presbyterian church of NSW and ultimately the highest rank – Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, a position he held until his retirement at the age of 65.

His work for the church, for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and his beloved St Philip’s College continued at a pace which would have exhausted much younger men, until he entered hospital with pneumonia in March.  He died just 10 days later.

A regular visitor to Alice Springs, he maintained a personal and vibrant relationship with the staff and students of St Philip’s College right up until his death.  

Fred’s ashes are interred under a sandstone boulder here at the College. He wanted to come home to rest among the people of the Outback for whom he had an overwhelming love and respect.

Fred’s boulder lies in the shade of an ironwood in the Fred and Meg McKay Peace Garden at St Philip’s College.  The garden, planned and developed by the College community, is a peaceful place for reflection and the enjoyment of our beautiful arid landscape, open to everyone who wants to share it.


Banner photo: Fred McKay Education Centre, St Philip's College housing the Fred McKay Museum.