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Anne Bon - white activist for black rights
Anne Bon at Windsor Hotel
Anne Fraser Bon (nee Dougall) was born in Perthshire, Scotland in 1838, one of five children. When she was just 21 years old she married her 48 year old husband, John Bon. They sailed to Australia in May 1858 in the Acadia. Included on board ship were her 16 year old sister, Jane and Mr Bon's nephew, Andrew Beveridge.John took his new bride to Wappan Station, Bonnie Doon. At that time, there was no town of Mansfield, no services, no doctor - a pioneering life, with few luxuries and a virtually self contained community. Wappan Station was also home to many Aboriginal people who had over the years, escaped from frontier violence to find sanctuary at Wappan. John and Anne Bon had only ten short years together before John died of a heart attack. They had five children; their first child Mary Jane died in infancy.

Anne Fraser Bon pictured at the Windsor Hotel

Following the death of her first child, Anne turned for solace not to her younger sister Jane, but to the Aborigines on Wappan Station. A visiting Wurundjeri elder, William Barak, had at that time also suffered the death of his child. It was through this shared loss that William Barak and Anne Bon formed a close spiritual bond.

Anne Bon kept in contact with William Barak when he settled in Coranderrk, Healesville. When her husband John died in 1868, she was determined to raise her four children and continue to run Wappan Station. She was a formidable woman who locally was dubbed, The Widow of Wappan. She also bought a house in Kew, Melbourne and would regularly catch the train from Bonnie Doon Station to Melbourne to attend to business matters.

It was to her Kew residence that William Barak brought his dying son David in 1881. Mrs Bon helped William take his son to the Melbourne Hospital but sadly David died soon afterwards.This tragedy spurned Mrs Bon to pressure the Berry government to instigate the Royal Commission into Coranderrk in 1881. She was a copious letter writer and became a thorn in the side of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines (BPA). It was largely through her letters and complaints that the unpopular Captain Page later resigned from Coranderrk.

When her efforts at changing conditions for Aborigines proved fruitless, she then tried to influence government policy from within. She became the first woman appointed to the Board for the Protection of Aborigines (BPA) in 1904, holding this position until her death in 1936.

After Wappan Station was compulsorily acquired by the State Rivers and Water Commission, Mrs Bon spent the last six of her 99 years residing at the Windsor Hotel.

Hotel Windsor

Her son William resided at the Menzies Hotel and would walk daily to the Windsor to visit his mother. Mrs Bon had a suite of rooms, crammed with furniture and memorabilia of her days at Wappan Station. She was a staunch Presbyterian and would attend the Scotts Church  Sunday service accompanied by her son William. She was also an avid poetry writer with a book of self published poems.