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On this day 140 years ago, the Hermannsburg Mission was founded in Central Australia. It was established by Lutheran Missionaries Schwarz and Kempe, who after 22 months of travel arrived in 1877, just seven years after the telegraph line was first woven through the landscape further east. Accompanied by 2000 sheep, five dogs and about 20 head of cattle, they immediately got to work building cattle yards and a reasonable kitchen before the arrival of their wives. While the mission aimed to “offer civilisation and citizenship to the depraved heathen through the influence of the Gospel”, it was many months before any Aboriginal people approached the station. Aside from the challenges of the mission’s remoteness and climate, communication was difficult, so the missionaries got to work learning the local Arrernte language, eventually developing a basic dictionary. By the 1930s the mission housed more than 100 children and operated under Lutheran control until 1982 when the land was finally returned to the local Arrernte people.

Published: 4 June 2017


Forgotten Territory was a weekly photo column of historic images in the Northern Territory News which I curated from 2016 until 2019 supported by the collections of the Northern Territory Library and other cultural institutions around Australia, as well as local history Facebook groups. 

Click on the images to read the story behind the image.

Warning: May contain images of people who have died.

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