Hermannsburg Mission on the Finke River is an evocative symbol of old Australia. Remarkably, the story of Pastor F. W. Albrecht, who ran the mission for twenty-six years from the 1920s, has not before been told.
When Albrecht came to Hermannsburg in 1926, Aborigines were thought to be a dying race, with governments and public alike largely indifferent to their fate. Albrecht accepted much of the prevailing mission ethos, but battled within it to gain secure reserves and support for Aborigines on their traditional lands, and to foster Aboriginal education, employment and leadership.
We meet station owners, Lutheran pioneers, prominent figures such as Flynn of the Inland, T. G. H. Strehlow and Harold Bell Lasseter - and Albert Namatjira, in whose life and painting Albrecht played a key role.
The focus shifts from first contact with bush people, to Aborigines on cattle stations and then in labour gangs during World War II, to familiar problems of urbanization,' welfare expansion and land rights. The voices of many Aborigines who knew Albrecht punctuate the story, almost as a chorus. And at the centre is a man of extraordinary personal commitment and considerable openness struggling to come to grips with a people very different from himself.