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The Widow of Wappan: the story
Barak Memorial
Why would a 96 year old widow have her husband's tombstone removed, resurfaced and remade into a memorial for an Aboriginal leader? Anne Fraser Bon donated this imposing memorial to the Shire of Healesville as her last gesture to achieve a measure of recognition for William Barak and the Aboriginal people of Victoria. Her extraordinary tale is the basis of the book - The Widow of Wappan: the story, written by Heather Matthew.

Anne Fraser Bon lived at Wappan Station, Bonnie Doon until 1930 when the State Rivers and Water Commission compulsorily acquired her land which was to be flooded by Sugar Loaf Weir (now Lake Eildon). She retired to the Windsor Hotel where she lived until her death in 1936. In 1931, the Australian Natives Association launched a public appeal to raise funds for a memorial to Wurundjeri leader, William Barak. Mrs Bon was a great friend and admirer of William Barak and had championed the cause of Aboriginal rights for over 50 years.

The Barak memorial at Coranderrk cemetery, Healesville

With Wappan Station about to be submerged, Mrs Bon had no hesitation in arranging for her husband's marble tombstone, still standing at Wappan, to be removed, resurfaced and reinscribed as a memorial to Barak. It was erected with great ceremony in the main street of Healesville in 1934. To view a photograph from the State Library of Victoria of this event click here.

From the start, the monument evoked much controversy. As a result of angry letters of protest to the Healesville Shire Council, it was subsequently removed and lay seemingly forgotten at the Shire depot for many years. In 1955 the Bread and Cheese Club relocated it to its present site at the Coranderrk Aboriginal Cemetery. There it stands today, a marble memorial topped by a funeral urn which seems quite out of place amongst the unmarked graves of so many Aboriginal people who died at Coranderrk.

Mr Bon's marble tombstone at Wappan Station  (photo courtesy Frank Endicott collection)