Established in 1877, the mission was the initial point of contact between Western Aranda and European cultures. The mission provided a sanctuary and source of medical assistance for Aranda people during the contact period. For many years it was the largest settlement in central Australia.
Following a spasmodic start, the mission was staffed by Pastor Carl Strehlow under whom most of the extant buildings were constructed (1897 - 1910). The buildings were constructed using of a variety of construction techniques, largely based on those used in Germany, and were built utilising mainly local materials. As such, the complex is of outstanding townscape value.
Hermannsburg is associated with a number of people of importance in Northern Territory history. Carl Strehlow and his son, T.G.H. Strehlow, created detailed recordings of the Aranda language and culture. The high esteem in which they were held by the Aranda people made it possible for them to produce these records, which still provide the baseline documentation for ethnographic research.
Hermannsburg was also the home of Albert Namatjira, one of Australia’s most famous landscape artists.
Aranda is the 3rd largest language spoken in NT. Census 2006.
Today ownership of the Heritage Precinct is in the hands of the local Western Aranda people who are represented by the Hermannsburg Historical Society, with the Finke River Mission acting as managers. Through close cooperation between these two bodies, this nationally significant heritage site is maintained and operated.
The Finke River Mission was established in 1877 when the first missionaries arrived at this site.
Today, the Finke River Mission of the Lutheran Church of Australia is still very active in Central Australia, training and supporting Lutheran men and women as church leaders in their own communities and family groups.
Geographically, this area covers the entire Southern part of the Northern Territory; an area larger than Victoria, or about the size of Germany.
Currently (2014) there are twenty-five Aboriginal pastors as well as over forty other pastoral trainees and female Church leaders delivering the Gospel message to over 6000 Central Australian Lutherans, in English and in their own languages, including: Luritja, Western Arrarnta, Pitjantjatjara, Anmatjere and Alyawarr.
In Alice Springs, the Finke River Mission works in partnership with the Alice Springs Lutheran congregation, ministering to the local Aboriginal people.
The Finke River Mission also operates the Hermannsburg General Store at the request of the local community, and Yirara College a co-educational boarding school for around 200 Aboriginal students, with campuses in Alice Springs and Kintore.
Finally, Finke River Mission works with Lutheran Community Care, which provides community training and support programs in Alice Springs and the surrounding communities.