Mitchell House – Australian Inland Mission Nursing Hostel

Scotswoman, Mrs Henrietta Smith, purchased 6 sections of land in South Australia and in1853 made a gift of them to the Free Church of Scotland.  Her idea was that any money made in rent from this land should be used to promote the Gospel among the Aborigines in the new colony.  Some of the money was channeled into mission work at the Pt MacLeay Mission soon after it became available, but then it seemed to be all but forgotten.

In 1893, the Presbyterian Church of South Australia negotiated with the Free Church of Scotland to use the accumulated money to provide a mission service to the people of the outback. The Rev Robert Mitchell became the first missionary and based himself in Beltana in 1895. Three years later the 4 roomed cottage was purchased for him. Other missionaries followed Mitchell, each one adding their dedication and commitment to the health and spiritual welfare of the people of the outback.

A nursing home, staffed by trained sisters, was opened at Oodnadatta in 1911, the same year that the Rev John Flynn began his term as missionary at Beltana. Flynn lobbied persistently for the funding of an organised health service and in 1912, his dream of a "mantle of safety" over the people of the outback was realised by the creation of the Australian Inland Mission.  

In 1919 the Mitchell Home became the AIM Nursing Hostel in Beltana, staffed by Sisters Kinnear and McLeod. The additional building on the western side, the Amy Fairfax Wing, was added in 1927. Its roofline, specially designed by Flynn, is an early example of bush "air conditioning". The curved cap along the ridge line of the roof, but separate from it, allowed the hot air inside to rise and escape, drawing in cooler air from below the building.

The Hostel eventually closed in 1952 when duplicate services could be provided in Leigh Creek. The AIM no longer exists, but its work continues under the Presbyterian Inland Mission, the Frontier Services of the Uniting Church and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.