Woman Bon, Anne


Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Anne Fraser Bon was born in Scotland in 1838, daughter of David Dougall, a physician, and his wife Jane, who was also remembered as a philanthropist. In 1858 she married and migrated to Australia to join her new husband, John Bon, on his pastoral property, Wappan at Bonnie Doon in Victoria.

Widowed, with four young children, at the age of thirty, Bon took over management of her husband's station and devoted much of the income she derived from it to philanthropic causes. She is best remembered for her activism on behalf of Indigenous peoples, and was their advocate on the Board for the Protection of Aborigines from 1904 until her death. She also donated to Presbyterian churches and charities in the area around the station at Bonnie Doon and reputedly used her homestead to provide patients from the state's psychiatric hospitals with holidays. She used her second home in Kew as a base for her involvement in Melbourne's philanthropic activities, serving on the ladies committee of the Austin Hospital, the foundation committee of the Charity Organisation Society and financially supporting the Salvation Army. She was instrumental in founding a school for Chinese children in Melbourne and offered her home as a refuge for the sick and the needy, particularly, and controversially, for Aboriginal people visiting the city (Argus, 9 June 1936). From the end of World War I she regularly gave a Christmas gift of £20 to every blinded soldier in Victoria (Argus, 30 May 1925). Shortly before her death she presented Healesville Council with a memorial to the Indigenous leader, Barak, with whom she had had a long term friendship (Kilmore Free Press, 5 July 1934).

Remembered as an imperious autocrat, yet compassionate and generous to those in need, she was prepared to use her influence within the Presbyterian Church and Parliament to promote her causes. She often presented a photo of herself to organisations to which she had donated (see for example: http://www.kuomintang.org.au/en/en_online.aspx?id=6). On her departure from Bonnie Doon, the local headmaster cited her 'strong personality, determination and purposeful life' as an example to the children who had benefitted from her contributions to the school (Kilmore Free Press, 18 April 1929). Bon is remembered, primarily for her work for Indigenous people, by a plaque in the Kew library (http://monumentaustralia.org.au/monument_display.php?id=96585&image=0). She died in 1936.

Published Resources

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources