From Moreton Bay’s beginning as a penal settlement in 1824, the authorities intended to use it as a base for missionary work among the aborigines. The Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, intimated through the Attorney General, Mr. Saxe Banister, to a deputation from the London Missionary Society, a wish that something might he attempted on behalf of the aborigines.
In his book Cooksland Dr. John Dunmore Lang describes the genesis of the German Lutheran Mission he was instrumental in founding at Nundah: “My attention,” he writes, “was strongly directed to the subject of establishing a mission to the aborigines of Australia so early as the year 1831, and during that year, and in the year 1834 I made three successive attempts to establish such a mission by means of Scotch missionaries, but without success.
The difficulty of securing Scottish missionaries was probably due to the fact that at the time there was an exodus of Scottish peasants to Canada, and that the Scottish clergy preferred to follow their own flocks to minister to their spiritual needs in the new home they sought beyond the seas. 1
In 1837 Dr Lang had been in Great Britain in search of missionaries to evangelise the Aborigines in the Moreton Bay area. He had been about to return to Australia without any success when he heard of Pastor Johannes Evangelista Gossner and his lay-missionary training centre at the Bethlehem Evangelical Church in Berlin. Dr Lang travelled to Berlin and enthusiastically outlined his plans to Pastor Gossner and his students, saying he felt Moreton Bay was ideally suited to a mission station. 2
A knowledge of Australia was widespread throughout German-speaking Europe: Yde T’Jercxzoon Holman, or Holleman, was second in command of the Heemskerk on Tasman’s second voyage, and on Cook’s second voyage he was accompanied by two German scientists, Johann Reinhold Forster and his son, Johann Georg Adam. The son’s work in particular, with its account of the Great Barrier Reef, was widely read. A German account of’ the third voyage was also published. Flinders on his voyage in the Investigator (1801-1803) had with him an Austrian, Ferdinand Bauer, whose account of the voyage was embellished with 1400 illustrations of Australian botanical specimens. 3
This is an image of Doryanthes excelsa from Ferdinand Bauer’s ‘Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae’.
1. Sparks, H.J.J.; Queensland’s First Free Settlement 1838–1938.
2. Nundah and Districts Historical Society Inc.