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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hagenauer, Friedrich August (1829–1909)

by L. J. Blake

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Friedrich August Hagenauer (1829-1909), by Tom Humphrey

Friedrich August Hagenauer (1829-1909), by Tom Humphrey

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H31885

Friedrich August Hagenauer (1829-1909), Moravian missionary, was born on 10 March 1829 at Hohenleuben, Saxony, of Lutheran parents. He left school at 14, worked for two years with his father and then on railway construction. Influenced by Pastor Lohe and Dr Schmid at Greiz, he applied in 1850 to study at Herrnhut, Ebersdorf, where the Brotherhood of Moravian priests accepted him as a missionary trainee in 1851. On 27 November 1856 he was instructed to go to Victoria with F. W. Spieseke who had returned to Europe after the Lake Boga Mission, established with Charles La Trobe's help in 1851, was abandoned.

Hagenauer and Spieseke arrived at Melbourne in May 1858. By December, following Governor (Sir) Henry Barkly's suggestion, they had selected a Wimmera River site on Antwerp station, where the squatter, Horatio Spencer Ellerman, gave material assistance and the Ebenezer mission school was opened next January. In 1858 several missionaries including Spieseke and Hagenauer had given evidence to a select committee on the alleviation of Aborigines' 'absolute wants'. The Central Board appointed to watch over the interests of the Aborigines, which first met on 7 June 1860, set up two stations and planned more government depots and missions financed by various churches. In February 1862 after negotiations between the Moravians and the Presbyterian Church of Victoria Hagenauer and his wife arrived in Gippsland where the Presbyterians hoped to secure two large reserves on Green Hills station with support from the central board. Objections by squatters led the board of land and works to change the site and in August 1863 some 2356 acres (953 ha) were secured at Lake Wellington on the River Avon. The Hagenauers moved to this reserve calling it Ramahyuck. Hagenauer believed in 'kind, firm, just and business-like treatment', and used the 'patriarchal principle' to control the Aboriginals. Thanks to generous subsidies and continuous assistance by a trained teacher, Ramahyuck was described in 1877 as the most successful of all missions. The Aborigines had well-constructed homes, learned rural tasks, cultivated crops, vegetables and fruit and tended sheep and cattle. In 1872 the school, taught in 1864-66 and 1870-76 by Rev. Carl Kramer, was the first in the colony to secure 100 per cent in marks under the results system introduced in 1862-63. After the 1877 royal commission on Aborigines, Hagenauer and Kramer were asked to tour the Murray area and persuade nomads to move into the reserves and mission stations. Hagenauer was also successful in training half-castes for rural work; and the number at Ramahyuck rose to 85 but dropped to 63 in 1888 as the half-castes became independent of the mission. For the Moravian Board in Saxony Hagenauer travelled in 1885 to North Queensland investigating Aboriginal needs and his report led to new government reserves and the Mapoon mission.

Tireless in his devotion to Aboriginals Hagenauer became religious superintendent for Anglican missions at Lake Tyers and Lake Condah and for two Presbyterian missions. As director of four of the colony's six stations he had much influence but often quarrelled with the board over supervision of the secular side of the missions and complained of the 'iron rule' of the secretary, Robert Brough Smyth. On 1 July 1889 Hagenauer became acting secretary and general inspector for the board at a salary of £450. Hagenauer resigned as secretary in 1906 and died aged 80 at Lake Tyers on 28 November 1909. On 15 June 1861 at St Paul's Church, Melbourne, he had married Christiana Louisa Knobloch, a missionary from Saxony; she died on 23 October 1917. Of their nine children, seven were born at Ramahyuck. A son was acting secular manager at Ramahyuck until it closed in 1908.

A conscientious and effective administrator, Hagenauer was 'wise in counsel, patient in effort and resolute in action'. In addition to material on Aboriginal language included in Brough Smyth's Aborigines of Victoria (Melbourne, 1878), he published papers on Mission Work Among the Aborigines of Victoria (1880), Report of the Aboriginal Mission at Ramahyuck, Victoria (1885), and Notes of a Missionary Journey to North Queensland (1886).

Select Bibliography

  • S. L. Chase (ed), The Moravian Mission at Lake Boga (Melb, 1856)
  • A. Massola, Aboriginal Mission Stations in Victoria (Melb, 1970)
  • M. Manning, ‘Life of Ernest Albert Le Souef’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Western Australian Historical Society), vol 6, part 4, 1965, pp 75-93
  • L. J. Blake, ‘Education at Ebenezer’, Educational Magazine, vol 24, no 1, Feb 1967, pp 37-48
  • The Gap, 7 (1969)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

L. J. Blake, 'Hagenauer, Friedrich August (1829–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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