Although Carl Strehlow’s name may be more widely remembered in history because of his ethnographic legacy there were other Lutherans who made a significant contribution to Hermannsburg. In particular, Pastor Friedrich Wilhelm Albrecht (1894-1984), was a Lutheran missionary at Hermannsburg Mission between 1926 and 1952, serving almost as long as Strehlow. After he left Hermannsburg he moved to Alice Springs and continued to serve the Aboriginal people of the area. He was born on 15 October 1894 at Plawanice, County of Lublin, then Russian Poland.
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Singing at Hermannsburg is not only something that is done in church! From singing in the church choir at Hermannsburg to sing-alongs at Palm Valley, to the Country Music Hall of Fame at Tamworth, Gus Williams was a country and western singer of renown across Australia. Gus Williams sang his way through life and he passed this joy of singing on to his children.
The history of the Arrarnta Lutheran community is constantly evolving. Today, the mission building lay empty and they sit alongside the growing town of Ntaria. The ownership of the heritage precinct is in the hands of the local Western Arrarnta 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.
Carl Strehlow is perhaps the best known of the missionaries to have worked at Hermannsburg. Appointed by the Immanuel Synod as their first missionary to Hermannsburg, he left a lasting legacy. He was not the only missionary there and many of the achievements in that time were a team effort between him and his wife Frieda Strehlow, co-missionary Pastor Bogner and the lay workers such as builders Mr. Hart and Mr. Haemmerling. Between them they rebuilt the neglected and dilapidated mission.
By the time yet another long drought at Hermannsburg broke in December 1929, 85% of the children at the mission had died, many adults were left permanently weakened, 3,000 head of cattle and most of the horses had been lost. An ambitious plan was developed by Pastor F.W Albrecht to pipe water from Kuprilya Spring to the mission station.
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.
Arrarnta culture was rich and aligned to the semi-arid country they called home. Knowledgeable elders used medicine to heal the sick and perform sacred ceremonies to replenish the natural world. While people were sometimes at the mercy of harsh climatic conditions they had and intimate knowledge of their land and the places to find food, water and spiritual guidance.
Life on the mission was a struggle, characterised by the heat, droughts and hard work. The mission was often under resourced and supplies from down south often late, with transport expensive and local food production subject to the whims of nature.