Leichhardt: A Scientist in a Strange Land

The Zion Hill Mission

“The Mission. All members are imbued by their lack of success.”

Leichhardt diary entry, 27 June 1843

In June 1843 Leichhardt visited the German Mission at Zion Hill, present day Nundah, Queensland. Established in 1838 by German Lutherans, the Mission was under the pastoral guidance of Reverend Schmidt, whom Leichhardt had first met the year before in Sydney. Despite feeling constrained during his time at the Mission, Leichhardt was able to record various geological and botanical specimens in the area, as well as the missionaries’ observations on Aboriginal life and customs.

While acknowledging the hard work, dedication and early achievements of the missionaries, Leichhardt believed the Mission would not be a success. During his visit he became increasingly disenchanted by the work of the missionaries, believing that a state of discord existed between the clergy and the lay members. In a letter to his mother in 1843, he noted that the missionaries “…could accomplish so little in regard to education and religion.”, while in a letter defending the Reverend Schmidt, Leichhardt warned that the Mission was close to failing. He was proved right, as in that same year Government funding ceased and in 1848 the Mission closed.

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