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The Inside Story of how Central Australia’s aboriginal population survived European settlement.

Investigations into a forgotten past.
Two volumes, Hard Bound.

Volume 1: 1198 pp. text, 116 pp. illustrations, and three tip-in maps. Published December 2011 by Wild Cat Press.
ISBN 978-0-9567 558-0-3

AU$90 + P&P / £60 + P&P / €70 + P&P.

Volume I

Arriving newly married in Central Australia in late 1895, Carl Strehlow’s wife Frieda was horrified to find that almost every child born at Hermannsburg died before the age of five. Determined to change this, she set out to discover what was going wrong, and how to change it.


Based on Frieda’s diaries and Carl’s official letters, the book goes into how she and Carl worked together, in the process debunking the fashionable ‘doomed race’ theory espoused by world famous anthropologists Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen.


Carl also researched the two languages spoken on the Mission, Aranda and Loritja, and after German baron Moritz von Leonhardi had contacted him, began writing his magnum opus Die Aranda- und Loritja-Staemme in Zentral-Australien (The Aranda and Loritja Tribes in Central Australia). In it he questioned some conclusions in Spencer and Gillen’s work, starting a vigorous debate in London intellectual circles and earning Spencer’s hostility.


This volume ends with the Strehlows returning to Germany in 1910 with no definite plans to come back to Hermannsburg.

In The Press

“...an indispensable contribution to the literature of remote, indigenous Australia.”

The Weekend Australian, 11 February 2012


Volume II - Sold in 2 parts

Publication of Volume II is expected to take place in October 2019.


Volume II: 1246 pp. text, 120 pp. illustrations, with one tip-in map and a tip-in photo.
To be published October-November 2019 by Wild Cat Press. ISBN 978-0-9567 558-1-0.

AU$100 + P&P / £70 + P&P / €80 + P&P.

Arriving in Germany in late August 1910, Frieda and Carl set up house in Angemuende where Carl’s former teacher Rev. Seidel is living. The education of their six children is now pressing: the two oldest, Friedrich aged 13, and Martha aged 11, as well as the three boys Rudolf, Karl and Hermann are placed in classes with much younger children. Theo is still only 2 years old. None of the Strehlow children want to stay in Germany, but are told they are here to get a good education: their parents will return from Australia in 1920.


Carl is preparing for his first face-to-face meeting with his collaborator Moritz von Leonhardi when news comes that the baron has suffered a stroke and is in a coma. Two weeks later he dies, leaving the future of Carl’s book in limbo. Asked to give lectures to mission societies, in November Carl sets off on a month-long tour leaving Frieda to look after the children aided by the Strehlow relatives. In January 1911 Carl gives two lectures to Frankfurt’s Anthropological Society which are a sell-out, so Bernhard Hagen continues with the publication of Carl’s book, but cuts its extensive linguistic researches.


Back in Australia, chairman of the Board Ludwig Kaibel encourages Loritja people to settle on the Mission, doubling its population. He also makes changes to how Hermannsburg is run. This leads to friction between the white staff, and when Carl’s replacement the youthful Oskar Liebler threatens to resign unless those undermining him are dismissed, Kaibel has no choice but to agree. Still smarting from Carl’s criticisms of his and Gillen’s work, Baldwin Spencer arranges for damning reports on Hermannsburg to appear in the southern press so the Commonwealth Government will resume the Mission. He wants to set up an orphanage for half-caste children in its place as part of the program known today as ‘The Stolen Generation’. Alarmed by what is happening, the Aranda population write letters to Carl begging him and Frieda to come back, which they do, bringing only Theo with them. Frieda is overwhelmed by guilt about leaving the other children in Germany.


World War 1 offers Spencer the chance to push through his scheme for Hermannsburg, for despite naturalization in 1901 Carl is now officially an ‘enemy alien’, however persons high up in Australian government circles negate Spencer’s plan and the Mission survives. Frieda’s work with the mothers and children means its population is growing. As the war progresses, Carl uses the censorship of his letters to communicate directly with government ministers and, sensing that the Lutherans are losing the will to carry on their missions, through Hillier opens up dealings with Bishop White to see if the Anglicans might take over if Hermannsburg is abandoned. The Mission is saved, but when the war ends no successor for Carl can be found, so he delays his return to Germany until 1923. However, his own health is now failing. Having secured Hermannsburg’s future with Administrator Urquhart, in October 1922 he sets off south to reach a doctor but dies at Horseshoe Bend halfway to the railhead, leaving Frieda to carry on south with young Theo on her own.



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