Judgement – Annie Lock Missionary

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many First Australians were forced from their Country and on to missions, reserves or stations. It was not unusual for families to be separated and sent to different areas, sometimes across state borders, with no idea of where their loved ones ended up.

Typically the Judgement card features an angel, possibly Gabriel, blowing a great trumpet, from which hangs a white flag bearing a red cross. A group of humans of grayish complexion stand, arms spread, apparently emerging from graves. However, in the card shown here, Isabella Rotman deviates from the classic Rider Waite symbolism. She chose to feature the jackal headed Anubis, incorporating the ancient Egyptian idea of divine judgement and presumably justice.

Anubis has retained an important role in the mythology of the dead and cuts a powerful figure here. He was credited with inventing the mummification process and enabling mortals to live on in the afterlife. One of his prominent roles was as a god who ushered souls into the afterlife. He attended the weighing scale during the “Weighing of the Heart”, in which it was determined whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead.

As a student Catherine Bishop says she naively thought she had uncovered a feminist heroine when she discovered material about Australian missionary, Annie Lock. However, once she researched more carefully she found a woman of deep contradictions and was quickly disabused of any notion of the woman being a heroine: for all of Lock’s intrepid and gutsy behaviour, she held intensely socially conservative views in line with her religious conviction. The legacy of work done by her and other missionaries reverberates to this day.

Annie Lock

An interpretive drawing of Annie Lock by Heather Blakey October 2022

The places where Annie Lock was the ‘big boss to the natives’ were created and designed to ‘protect’ First Australians in a very patronising, paternalistic sense. Mainstream Australian thinking at the time was that Australia’s First Peoples were a ‘dying race’. Protectionist policies were developed reflecting this view. The interesting thing about Lock is that she didn’t adhere to all these view and her view that white Australians had taken Aboriginal land and owed them compensation was ahead of her time.

Born in 1876 into a Methodist sharefarming family of 14 children in South Australia’s Gilbert Valley, Lock was a practical woman with a very basic education. A dressmaker by trade, in 1903 she joined what would become the United Aborigines Mission.

It operated on faith lines: missionaries were unpaid and could not actively solicit donations, relying on prayer to answer all needs. Lock, like her colleagues, developed a nice line in inviting supporters to “join her in prayer” for very specific needs, such as “a nice staunch horse for £12”, hoping for a “practical” show of sympathy.

Follow the links and judge for yourself. Lock was a very contradictory, controversial figure. However, “while one may not admire all of Annie Lock’s actions or opinions, one cannot help but have respect for her courage, perseverance and the fact that she offered a friendly hand, albeit with strings attached. She was a significant figure in Australian history, one of an army of female missionaries who had profound effects, both positive and negative, on generations of Indigenous people. Lest we forget”.