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The Mari Yamba mission was established by the Hermannsburg-learning Lutheran synod of Queensland (UGSLSQ) Australia. The Mari Yamba residents were relocated to the Cape Bedford mission in 1902. It is located near the present day Prosperine and Andromache State Forests.
After the Bethesda mission was closed in 1881, there was only one mission still operating in Queensland. The one who had started the Cape Bedford mission, Rev. Flierl from Neuendettalsau, appealed to the German Lutheran synods to create a north Queensland mission. Four candidates were sent from the Hermannsburg in 1883 in order to establish a German mission.
A name and a place were found for the mission. They named it Mari Yamba, expressing that it was a place for the ‘Murris’ and it was a reserve of about 30-36 square miles (about 200,000 acres) 25 miles south of Proserpine on the Andromache River. The mission was placed under the leadership of a local committee, a move which isolated it from the state church. In charge was the Rev. Andreas Christian Claussen, a Hermannsburg graduate with experience in New Zealand. He arrived with his wife who was a trained deaconess, and several children. Also on the mission was Pastor Martin Doblies, who had served at Elim and Simbag.
Because the mission was run by the committee, there were often problems associated with the money and such. Claussen was to write the quarterly reports and was often asked to justify all expenses made even if they were necessary. Because of little monetary support from the government the financial support from the synod congregations were vital to the running of the mission, but in 1889 the synod supporting the mission disintegrated.
In May 1888 Claussen resigned, claiming he was unable to work with Doblies. The committee instead dismissed Doblies, who was not favoured because he was not from Hermannsburg. It found lay missionary Hans Jürgen Norup to look after the agricultural and stock work.
By May 1889 complaints were surrounding the mission that Claussen was living his own life, separate from the rest of the other colonists, and within months of the complaints Claussen was reported to be on his deathbed. The split between the Germans and the Danish had been happening on the mission as well as in the synod.
The Danish members of the synod found that even though they made up half of the synod members, they were getting little representation. The committee ignored the request for changing this and sacked the Danish laymen working on the mission in July 1889. This left Claussen at the mission with only Norup, who was asked to remain until his contract expired. Claussen asked to divide the mission land in order to hand it over to the residents, but was denied. Meanwhile the committee was looking to Hermannsburg for a replacement Pastor.
This came in the form of Ludwig Krause, who arrived in December 1890. But within three months he applied for a vacant pastor position in Mackay. Krause did not go to Mackay and was asked to refund the money that he had been paid for his journey from Germany.
In November 1891 the committee wanted to build a school house. They hired carpenter Ernst Starke and purchased the materials. Starke argued that he was not responsible for the stumps driving into the soil and the transport for the material, which exploded the budget. Claussen asked for a new house as he was still living in a ‘humpy’ and the school they had been using was still usable because it was only three years old. Instead the committee decided to sell the materials.
Claussen requested a year’s absence of leave and it took a year to arrange. Andreas Mohr arrived in July 1893 after expressing ‘serious misgivings’ over going to Mari Yamba. So instead the committee sent him to a German congregation. Committee member Mewing (sometimes referred to as Mehring or Möhring) took the job as a stop-gap and the Claussen family moved to Toowoomba.
Just prior to leaving the mission Claussen reported that he had several children ready for baptism on the station and to be taken to ‘given into the care of Christian families’. As the committee felt compelled to separate the children from their families, most of the children appeared not to want the baptism to happen. Nevertheless, two Mari Yamba girls were baptised in Toowoomba in 1895, Maria and Magdalene. Maria is to presumed to have been brought to Toowoomba by Claussen as her mother was reported to have said ‘I will cry myself to the grave now’.
Claussen never returned to the mission. As the requests for new mission workers had not been successful from Hermannsburg graduates the committee widened the net of requests and obtained a man from Neuendettelsau, Ernst Richard Hanche who arrived in November 1894. Hanche’s English was sparse and the committee had decided to run the whole mission in English.
Lay helpers J. Tanzky and his wife offered themselves as workers in January 1895, but the couple left. Hanche also had the help of committee member G. R. Weise as a station manager but he battled against negative reports and the uncooperative committee.
Within months of his arrival Hanche had baptised a man and his son. The committee was displeased though, because it was too soon after his arrival and there were no missionaries present. He was deemed unfamiliar with the synod practices among Lutherans.
A proper baptism was put on in Toowoomba at the mission festival in 1895. Magdalena, aged 13 and Maria, aged 15, were baptised in the presence of seven pastors and a large crowd. The ceremony was held in English. Hanche sent a photo to the Neuendettelsau press of Martha in her white baptismal dress in order to show the elevated notion of Christianity to the aboriginal people.
In December 1896 Mari Yamba held a baptism to the synod standards. Hanche baptised Hannes, Josef and Anchen. By this time Hanche was looking for other positions in other states as he could not get used to the differences between his own training and that which was expected from him.
In July 1895 Andreas Mohr agreed to go to Mari Yamba and was duly ordained. But soon he found the dominant behaviour of Hanche displeasing. Also the committee had received a Letter from the Colonial Secretary criticising the way that the mission was run by Mr. Weise. At the same time a government inspector had alleged that there was no missionary activity at all going on at the mission. The committee soon looked for a replacement for Hanche.
Hanche was to stay for another two year though when Weise and Mohr returned to Brisbane and reported unfavourably. Their complaints were that Hanche often read instead of doing mission work, was often inappropriately dressed and allowed one of the mission girls to stay in a room in the mission house. But the committee was having much trouble finding a replacement so they had no choice but to keep Hanche.
Finally Georg Christoph Freiboth was hired to work at the mission. He arrived in March 1898 and the next day Hanche and Weise left. However Freiboth was not ordained and there was no other missionary. The population increased again, to 38 in June 1899 but there was little community support. The government was not happy with the ‘lack of discipline’ on the mission and withheld its subsidy for five months until insisting that a qualified pastor must be at the mission.
By November 1899 The Courier Mail reported that the mission had made good progress and that the numbers of Indigenous people were increasing. The station was in good order but the budget was decreasing and had run into debt. The synod convention in Toowoomba decided to disband the mission. The movable property was sold and the government bought the land.
In November 1901 Rev. Schwarz got some funding from the Mari Yamba committee when he agreed to take on the mission residents. Freiboth took a month to comply with all the requirements that Schwarz had left him. Freiboth took some of the residents to the Cape Bedford mission and took the others to Bloomfield.
In 1908 Rev. Poland listed the residents of Hope Valley. He listed that nine who had been baptised that year were from the Mari Yamba residents.
More information can be found at http://missionaries.griffith.edu.au/qld-mission/mari-yamba-1887-1902
Regina Ganter, "Mari Yamba (1887-1902)", German Missionaries in Australia, Retrieved 23 October 2009.