A Mission in the middle – Hermannsburg in Central Australia

One of the places that Suzzanna suggested we go and see was Hermannsburg near Alice Springs. I hadn’t ever heard of it, but once I looked it up I knew it was a definite yes for me.

We had initially planned on visiting on the same day we did the flight over Kings Canyon. If we had continued on the road we first went on we would have driven straight to Hermannsburg. If you read the post about Kings Canyon then you would know why we had to turn around.

We had to go on a different day and we did.

Hermannsburg, Lutheran Mission

I’m going to give you a link, but basically, it was a missionary set up in 1877 by German Lutherans. They travelled for 20 months from Adelaide to get there. I imagine they just kept going until they found a place that they thought would work. I did read somewhere that when they go there water was in a nearby creek, I think it was, and they thought it was a good sign. They stayed and it wasn’t closed until 1982.

One of the surprises for me was that one of the most famous Aboriginal painters in our history is Albert Namatjira a member of the Western Arrarnta people was born, and then raised at Hermannsburg. Click on his name for a link to a page about him. His story is quite tragic and shows how disgusting our ancestors were towards the indigenous people who have been here for a very long time.

I’m going to give you two links for the community, one is from the Western Arrarnta and the other is from Wikipedia.

Hermannsburg Historical Precinct

Wikipedia – Hermannsburg, Northern Territory

The mission is fenced in, but there is also a town there as well. Many parts of the town are out of bounds for tourists. They want you to respect the privacy of the people who live there, and I can’t say I disagree. We didn’t wander around because we were there to see the mission and that is all.

As soon as you walk in one of the first places you see is the Church. It sits right in the middle of the community. You can see it from nearly everywhere there.

It is a basic structure, but most of the buildings are. They are all painted white. They are a sharp contrast to the red colour of the earth there.

We went and had afternoon tea from the cafe there and guess what was on the menu? If you guessed apple strudel you would be right. We had to have it, didn’t we? Plus a coffee. If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen the short reel I showed of where we were sitting on the front verandah looking at what was there. It was cool and quiet.

It must have been a hot dusty place in summer. I can’t imagine any Europeans in the 1800s liking it there. I always think of the women and the outfits they wore. They must have been so hot. I’m so glad we don’t have to wear things like that anymore. Would be good in winter, but in summer, no thanks.

I found this sign and liked the story.

Not sure I would happy if I were Frieda. I hope they were happy. Click here for a link to their story.

Here are a few more photos of some of the buildings there.

It looks very relaxing, or at least it did the day we went. The long verandahs would have been wonderful to sit on during hot days.

Though I also think most of these buildings were for the German Lutherans and we got some ideas of how the Aboriginal people were housed.

As you can see from the signs this was the boy’s dormitory. They slept up to 25 boys in there. How cramped they must have been. They were also locked in at night. It must have been horrible.

The last photo in that gallery was taken with my phone. I have a few more here as well.

I found my phone was great for wide angle, but not much else. I don’t know, I have to wonder if cameras on phones are getting worse. If you zoom in you get horrible images. Anyway, will do a post on that another time.

It was definitely an interesting place to visit. I don’t think I have been to a place like it before. You hear about these places, trying to turn Aborigines into Christians. I don’t think it should ever have been allowed, but I wasn’t alive back then.

Have you ever visited a Mission like this? What are your thoughts about it?

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  1. Great set of photographs. Really gives a sense of what it was like to visit the place. It is strange now how differently people thought back then.

    1. That is so true RJ, it was a different world in so many ways. I don’t think I would have liked to live there. No not for me. Thank you.

  2. It’s good to see you back. You disappeared for a while.

    We did the same thing to our Natives. It was an “English colonial” thing. Wherever they went, they left this horrible legacy of White is Right and it lives on and on.

    1. Yeah, I’ve struggled with keeping the blog going, especially during the pandemic. I’ve tried to find other things. I hope to keep it doing now. I have some new ideas. It is good to hear from you as well Marilyn.

      They did leave a horrible trail behind them, that’s for sure. Here it was all about convicts and treating the indigenous people like they weren’t human. It is so sad.

  3. I am obviously not familiar with this place but your photos appear to do a lovely job of capturing the light, patina, and visual textures of the location. It seems like a fascinating place with a compelling and thought-provoking story. You can really feel the layers of history in such places I think.

    Although America obviously has its own long and awful story of missions designed to convert and assimilate the indigenous people, I have not yet visited such a site. I should probably investigate doing so. The closest type of thing I have experienced here is a visit to Manzanar camp, where Japanese-Americans were interred during World War II. Another awful episode in America’s history, of course.

    1. Thank you Laura. I just wonder how hard it would be to keep those buildings white with all the red dust. You can most definitely see that history.

      Yes, you should see what you can find. Let me know. I don’t think places like the internment camps are still here, though I do have a coin from one. We all have so many awful histories, I mean when you start going back in time, where do you stop and not see it happening. It is rather sad.

  4. Missions can be beautiful structures, but that is tainted for me by the forceable conversions that happened within their walls. Why couldn’t Europeans respect the belief systems of the original inhabitants of the land and even learn from them?

    1. Yes, definitely tainted, if walls could talk. I don’t know, I totally agree Rebecca, they describe them as heathens, but they had their own beliefs, and those beliefs went back a lot farther than Christianity. Thank you Rebecca.

  5. I would like to visit this place, it looks interesting, Leanne. Camera phones still have a long way to go to catch up with a Nikon or Canon.

    1. Sounds like you need to start planning a trip John. I think they used to be better than what they are. I can’t ever see them replacing cameras like Nikon or whatnot. I guess time will tell. Thank you John.

    2. It would be nice if they could replace my Nikon because it fits in your pocket, but I agree. They can get better to a point.

    3. I can’t see it ever happening if what my new phone is like. The phone has replaced those small compact cameras sadly and I don’t think the phone is as good as they were. I will be be sticking with my Fujifilm for now, that’s for sure.

    4. You are right, Leanne, the little cameras are on the way out. Kind of sad, I will be keeping my Nikon!

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