An Aboriginal wurley- traditional hut

Living on the mission

From triumphs to heartbreak, Hermannsburg runs the gamut of human experience. Set against a backdrop of frontier violence, Hermannsburg provided a place of refuge for Arrarnta people. However, life was far from easy with repeated droughts, new diseases and the constant challenge of reconciling traditional life with the missionary agenda.

Cutting desert oak for the building of the tannery

Skins, leather and industry at Hermannsburg

Pastor F.W Albrecht constantly sought to help make the mission financially independent. He experimented with ways to create employment opportunities for people at Hermannsburg. One of these enterprises was the tannery producing tanned skins, leather goods and kangaroo skin rugs.

School at Hermannsburg Mission Station

Learning at the Mission

One of the most evocative buildings on the mission, it is easy to imagine this building full of the laughter of children, the voice of the teacher leading lessons and no doubt the occasional swish of the cane!

Helene all grown up- still has the tanned skin of the carpet snake

Carpet Snake Memories

Snakes are a fact of life in the Australian countryside but that doesn’t mean that you have to like them! The ‘little Helene’ in these anecdotes was the child of Freidrich Wilhelm and Minna Albrecht. These are her memories, as recounted to her niece Ruth. They provide a glimpse of family life on the mission at that time.

Children playing in wet sand in the Finke River c.1923

Life as a Child on the Mission

Children don’t always understand the hardship faced by the adults around them. Many of the children on the mission grew up navigating through two worlds. The world of the Lutheran missionaries including church, school lessons, chores and play; and the world of Arrarnta traditions. Unlike many other missions in Australia, life in Hermannsburg did not mean a total disconnect between children, their families and their language.

Hermannsburg garden with woman tending rows of vegetables

Mrs Latz’s cabbage

Growing food was something to celebrate and the many photos of mission residents in the orchards and gardens attest to the effort that went into growing the produce that was the life blood of the mission. The joy in harvesting produce in times of plenty can be seen in the proud smile of Mrs Latz as she shows off her giant cabbage.

Aboriginal stone and grass houses

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Life on the mission was a struggle, characterised by the heat, droughts and hard work; add to this mix jealousies and hostile neighbours and one can expect outbreaks of dissatisfaction, arguments and even violence. Not all of the characters at Hermannsburg were heroes or their actions heroic. Different missionaries and lay workers brought with them their own personalities, prejudices and beliefs and there are elements of history that have been obscured by time, but which hint at dark events.


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