At the Riverside: Jesuit missionaries and Aboriginal people at the Daly River, Northern Territory, 1886-1899.

Daly RiverA cross-cultural encounter.

Dr. Stefan Sippell
University of Munich

Time: 4.15-5.30pm, Wednesday 28 April 2010

McDonald Room, Menzies Library
Australian National University

24th September 1886. They have arrived. Father Adolf Kristen and Brother Vinzenz Scharmer are the first Austrian Jesuits to cast their eyes on the Daly River – here the missionaries are going to attempt to convert the Aboriginal people in the area to the Roman Catholic faith. But – the author of the diary records – as the two men step to the water’s edge they are disappointed: “No doubt they expected to find it resemble the Danube in its majestic flow, and found it smaller than the river Inn!” What they saw in the surface of the water is to all intents and purposes their own reflection …

3rd March 1899. There is one short sentence in the diary: “The river is starting to rise.” And then the floods come, as in almost every year; but this time it almost completely destroys the Jesuits’ settlement – shortly after the Superior, with the authorisation of the Superior General in Rome, decides that all the missionaries must leave the Daly River from one day to the next. No one else compares the river with the Inn or the Danube. The Aborigines are left to their fate. The flood is not the only reason for abandoning the mission. The mirror images have now become dim, blurred and distorted.

In my talk I will attempt to get the feel of the period between these two entries in the Jesuits’ diary – although we all know that this is, strictly speaking, impossible to achieve. In spite of this I will tell you stories about it: about the encounter of the Austrian missionaries and the people whose lives they interfered with for almost 13 years. I will talk about the havoc caused by this intense and extreme confrontation on the river bank – on both sides of the encounter. I will talk about speechlessness, and attempt to show understanding for some misunderstandings. There will be talk of the birth of a girl and the search for her father. I will go to Daly River myself, search for clues in a sitting room and leave some chocolate there. Music will be heard twice – and if we are lucky at the end we will all be standing there together: At the riverside.

Stefan Sippell, b. 1973, studied history and philosophy at the University of Munich. He obtained a Ph.D. in 2009. During the course of his post-graduate studies he spent some time doing research in Australia (including at the ANU). He is currently employed as head of copy in a branding agency in Munich.

All welcome.

A Seminar hosted by the School of History, Research School of Social Sciences, ANU.

Please contact Shino Konishi (shino.konishi@anu.edu.au) if you have any queries. Please note that unfortunately we are unable to record these seminar presentations.

At the Riverside: Jesuit missionaries and Aboriginal people at the Daly River, Northern Territory, 1886-1899.

A cross-cultural encounter.

Dr. Stefan Sippell

University of Munich

Time: 4.15-5.30pm, Wednesday 28 April 2010

McDonald Room, Menzies Library

Australian National University

24th September 1886. They have arrived. Father Adolf Kristen and Brother Vinzenz Scharmer are the first Austrian Jesuits to cast their eyes on the Daly River – here the missionaries are going to attempt to convert the Aboriginal people in the area to the Roman Catholic faith. But – the author of the diary records – as the two men step to the water’s edge they are disappointed: “No doubt they expected to find it resemble the Danube in its majestic flow, and found it smaller than the river Inn!” What they saw in the surface of the water is to all intents and purposes their own reflection …

3rd March 1899. There is one short sentence in the diary: “The river is starting to rise.” And then the floods come, as in almost every year; but this time it almost completely destroys the Jesuits’ settlement – shortly after the Superior, with the authorisation of the Superior General in Rome, decides that all the missionaries must leave the Daly River from one day to the next. No one else compares the river with the Inn or the Danube. The Aborigines are left to their fate. The flood is not the only reason for abandoning the mission. The mirror images have now become dim, blurred and distorted.

In my talk I will attempt to get the feel of the period between these two entries in the Jesuits’ diary – although we all know that this is, strictly speaking, impossible to achieve. In spite of this I will tell you stories about it: about the encounter of the Austrian missionaries and the people whose lives they interfered with for almost 13 years. I will talk about the havoc caused by this intense and extreme confrontation on the river bank – on both sides of the encounter. I will talk about speechlessness, and attempt to show understanding for some misunderstandings. There will be talk of the birth of a girl and the search for her father. I will go to Daly River myself, search for clues in a sitting room and leave some chocolate there. Music will be heard twice – and if we are lucky at the end we will all be standing there together: At the riverside.

Stefan Sippell, b. 1973, studied history and philosophy at the University of Munich. He obtained a Ph.D. in 2009. During the course of his post-graduate studies he spent some time doing research in Australia (including at the ANU). He is currently employed as head of copy in a branding agency in Munich.

All welcome.

A Seminar hosted by the School of History, Research School of Social Sciences, ANU.

Please contact Shino Konishi (shino.konishi@anu.edu.au) if you have any queries. Please note that unfortunately we are unable to record these seminar presentations.