Children lining up for food Source Finke River Mission

Arrarnta and Finke River Mission Services

Established in 1877, the mission was the initial point of contact between Western Arrarnta and European cultures. The mission provided a sanctuary and source of medical assistance for Arranta people during the contact period.

For many years it was the largest settlement in central Australia. Geographically, central Australia covers the entire southern part of the Northern Territory, which is an area larger than the state of Victoria, and about the size of Germany.

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, but 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 local 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.

The language recorded by those early missionaries, Kempe and the Strehlows, was at that time written as 'Aranda'. Today we know it as 'Western Arrarnta'. The version of the language spoken at Hermannsburg is known today as Western Arrarnta.

It became a significant language in the pioneer era. It was even used by Hermannsburg people and staff when they travelled across central Australia and communicated with people from other language backgrounds.

Today ownership of the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct is in the hands of the local Western Arrarnta people who are represented by the Hermannsburg Historical Society, with Finke River Mission Services acting as managers. Through close cooperation between these two bodies, this nationally significant heritage site is maintained and operated. 

Today, Finke River Mission Services 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, Finke River Mission Services works in partnership with the Alice Springs Lutheran congregation, ministering to the local Aboriginal people.

Finke River Mission Services 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. They also work with Lutheran Community Care, which provides community training and support programs in Alice Springs and the surrounding communities.