In the preface to The contest for Aboriginal souls: European missionary agendas in Australia, Regina Ganter notes that her analysis of non-European missionary activity in Australia is from ‘the other side of the altar’ (p.xxii) following Henry Reynolds’ approach of examining frontier contact from a different perspective. Rather than regarding missionaries as just another component of the overall colonial apparatus, this book analyses mission activity from the perspective of ‘missionaries themselves’ (p.xxii). Even though the mission experience has been a defining one for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and has been important in shaping relationships between them and settler Australians, it has mostly been peripheral to studies of contact history. While there is a growing body of recent research on the history of Englishspeaking Australian missions to Aborigines, this is not the case with the large number of non-English- (mainly German-) speaking missions. By using primary material mostly from German archives, not previously accessed by English-speaking researchers, Ganter provides a wealth of new knowledge. As she points out, in the second half of the nineteenth century ‘half of all mission efforts in Australia were staffed with German speakers’ (p.ix). This book and the accompanying website1 have synthesised a vast amount of material about non-English-speaking missionary activity from various Christian denominations across Australia over the whole mission era, broadening our understanding of this significant aspect of contact history.
Review Single Work
European missionaries in Australia, Aboriginal missions