On Sunday 12 February the book, The Tale of Frieda Keysser by John Strehlow, was launched at Australian Lutheran College by Ms Alison Anderson, Member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Her electorate of Macdonnell in Central Australia includes all the lands covered by Finke River Mission.
After speaking first in her own language of Arrernte, Ms Anderson acknowledged the life-saving work of Frieda and Pastor Carl Strehlow at Hermannsburg, the home town of her childhood. She said, ‘many Central Australian aboriginal people are here today only because of the work these missionaries did in the early years.’
The Lutheran missionaries were concerned about the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal people, while other Europeans thought they were a dying race. Frieda and Carl showed that with love and attention the lives of the people could be saved and they could take their place in the new way of life that was being thrust onto them by British rule. ‘By 1922 the mission had been transformed into a thriving outpost’, she said.
She was critical of those anthropologists who wanted to keep the people unspoiled and she thanked the mission for assisting the people to adjust to the changes in Australian society. ‘This book provides the lesson for anthropologists past and present’, she said.
‘For me this book rings true with what I knew from my own childhood … For those of us who grew up within the mission history of Central Australia, there is never a bad word said about the missions. We are still grateful for the opportunity they gave us.’
At the launch John paid special tribute to the ‘Lutheran faithful’, who had supported the Finke River Mission from one generation to the next.
The Tale of Frieda Keysser can be purchased from Lutheran Archives, 27 Fourth St, Bowden SA 5007 (tel 08 8340 4009; email firstname.lastname@example.org). The price is $90 (plus postage; $10 in SA, $15 interstate).