13 July 2018
The suburb of Wandi is named for Wandi Dixon.
Believed to have been born around 1879, Wandi was an Aboriginal stock man employed by Fremantle businessman, George Atkinson to drive cattle from Robb Jetty to nearby holding paddocks, as well as driving sheep into paddocks around Cockburn Sound. The Atkinson family were part-owners of Anchorage Butchers at Coogee. Working for the Atkinson family throughout the first four decades of the 20th Century, Wandi lived in the racing quarters of George Atkinson’s South Fremantle home, his other duties being to care for the family’s many racehorses.
In 1916, Wandi came to the attention of the authorities, caught working for Mr. Atkinson without a permit. This was a serious offense for both Wandi and his employer, and both received a hefty fine. Under the Aborigines Act 1905, Aboriginal people were forbidden from seeking employment with a white person unless they first received a work permit from the office of the Chief Protector of Aborigines, at this time a man named Auber Octavius (A.O) Neville.
The Aboriginal Act heavily constrained Aboriginal people’s rights, the most devastating aspect of the Act being the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families. In Western Australia, government officials used the Act to forbid Aboriginals from entering the Perth CBD without a valid “pass” and they were under a strict curfew.
There is some evidence that Wandi might have also possessed skill as a boxer, and there is mention of a Wandi participating in Perth tournaments between 1903 and 1907.
Wandi died in 1955, in the Moora district, at the age of 76.
Image: Wandi holding George Atkinson, grandson of the original George Atkinson, 1947.