There are many theories regarding the origin of the name Dandenong, some of them reaching back before European settlement to the days when the Woiwurrung wandered the lands thereabouts. But today at last, the truth about Dandenong can be revealed.

There are those who claim that the name is a bastardisation of the Woiwurrung word ‘Tanjenong‘, which translates as ‘lofty mountains‘, referring one assumes, to the nearby Dandenong ranges.

Others believe that the name is derived from the attempts of many drunkards to pronounce the name of the No Good Damper Inn, a drinking establishment that once serviced the locality.

Still others point once more at the Woiwurrung, whose words ‘Banye‘ and ‘Nong‘ mean, respectively, ‘a burning’ and ‘the past’ – which is thought to be a reference to bushfires which often swept through the area when it was uncleared red gum forest.

In fact, the name derives from one of the area’s earliest settlers, a Vietnamese man named Tranh. Tranh Nguyen had made his money on the gold fields of Castlemaine in the 1850s, when he and his family found the largest ever gold nugget. Eschewing the publicity that came with such a find, Nguyen and his family broke it down into many, many smaller nuggets, which they gradually sold, accumulating a good-sixed fortune in doing so.

Nguyen, as head of his family, decided on what to do with it, and what he chose to do was the buy uncleared land to the south of the current Dandenong railway station. Here, he and his family worked hard to clear the land and create one of the area’s earliest sheep runs. Acutely conscious of the racism of his neighbours, Nguyen made every effort to assimilate.

His children were sent to European schools and dressed in the very latest fashions. Although they were mostly boarders at their respective schools, his sons and daughters came home each weekend and attended social events at the Town Hall and the local theatre. Although they were well-mannered and friendly by all accounts, the racism of the era saw them derided as nouveau riche posers. In particular, their clothing was frequently mocked, and their surname often mispronounced as Nung.

From there, a combination of semantic drift and cruel punning saw the family become known as ‘the Dandy Nongs’. The Nguyens had the last laugh, however – the children told their classmates of the nickname, and they told their friends and families, until most of upper class Melbourne knew the area as the home of the Dandy Nongs – which over time was simplified to just Dandenong.

Today, the descendents of British settlers still complain about immigrants from Asia in their fair Dandenong, all unaware that every time they say the name again, they’re recalling the original Asian immigrants in the area.

Suburbs near Dandenong:

Mulgrave Rowville Endeavour Hills Endeavour Hills
Noble Park North Dandenong North Dandenong North Endeavour Hills
Noble Park Dandenong Dandenong Doveton
Keysborough Dandenong South Dandenong South Eumemmerring
Keysborough Dandenong South Dandenong South Hallam
Bangholme Dandenong South Dandenong South Hampton Park
Bangholme Bangholme Dandenong South Lynbrook
Carrum Downs Carrum Downs Lyndhurst Cranbourne North
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