National Heritage List inscription date 13 April 2006
The Hermannsburg Historic Precinct is one of the few surviving relatively intact, evangelical bush missions in Australia. Since its establishment in 1877, Aboriginal people have lived at Hermannsburg, the former Lutheran Mission, located on Western Arrernte country. Hermannsburg was the home of renowned Aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira and is also associated with the Lutheran missionaries, Pastor Carl Strehlow and his son, Professor T.G.H. Strehlow who was the first linguist to study indigenous languages.
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Based on German Lutheran principles, the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct continues to reflect the principal characteristics of bush missions, based on a modified ‘village green’ layout, with a central church bordered by residential buildings and communal facilities, including a school and eating house.
The structures and landscaping show the changing phases of government policies towards Aboriginal people from 1877 to 1982 and reflect the common Lutheran themes of Aboriginal mission life including places for the distribution of rations and communal meals, the separation of Aboriginal children from their parents, and the emphasis on church, schooling, work and self sufficiency.
Mission as refuge
The mission functioned as a refuge for Aboriginal people during the early pastoral settlement in central Australia. The outspoken and independent Lutheran missionaries played a key role in mediating conflicts between pastoralists, the police and Aboriginal people, and spoke out publicly about the violence between groups, sparking a heated national debate on the treatment of indigenous people.
The Hermannsburg Historic Precinct has a special association with Albert Namatjira and his distinctive Aboriginal school of central Australian landscape painting. Namatjira grew up at Hermannsburg and in the early 1930’s he was introduced to European style watercolour painting. He was the first Aboriginal artist to be commercially exhibited nationally and internationally and his work became widely acclaimed as a national symbol for Aboriginal achievement. Aboriginal artists in the Hermannsburg area continue to paint in Namatjira’s watercolour style.
Pastor Carl Strehlow and his son T.G.H. Strehlow made a singular contribution to the record of Aboriginal traditions through their early research in the region with the Western Arrernte and Luritja Aboriginal people during their 30 year association with the mission.
Hermannsburg Historic Precinct is open to visitors who can see the old mission house, Albert Namatjira's house, a museum and an art gallery.
Consultation with Indigenous people about the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct national heritage listed place
Indigenous people are the primary source of information on the value of their heritage and should be consulted on a proposed action likely to significantly impact on the listed Indigenous heritage values of the place and/or on a protected matter that has Indigenous heritage values (like listed threatened species).
Prior to undertaking any action, proponents should contact the appropriate Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of the land on which the action will occur that has listed values that may be significantly impacted, as well as the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of adjoining lands that may be significantly impacted by the action.
A letter from the appropriate representative bodies declaring that they have been adequately consulted on the action informs the Department that a best practice approach has been undertaken. Further information on Aboriginal representative bodies is available from Native Title Corporations or via local Aboriginal Land Councils. Guidance about best practice Indigenous engagement can be found at Engage early – guidance for proponents on best practice Indigenous engagement for environmental assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).