Tony’s Notes From The Bony Novels (Part Eight)

Posted on Mon 04/11/2011 by


Bony’s Education and Police Service Rank.

Over the years, commentators have spoken at length about both of these subjects. In the main, those commentators have been treating the novels as coming from a background of Fact, and not as works of Fiction.

Upfield started constructing these Bony novels in the late 1920’s, and at that time the Aborigine was decidedly at the lowest end of any social structure, so for Bony to have a University Education and to then be Police Detective Inspector was still many decades into the future.

Those commentators might actually be making those comments coming from the opposite direction from the position where Upfield was, and not looking at the point Upfield was attempting to make, even in a work of Fiction.

Bony’s Education.

At that time, virtually no Aborigine would have had any schooling beyond Primary School level. None of them attended any of the schools at all, be they the State Schools or even Private Schools. The only education some of them got was for those aboriginal children who had been removed from the tribal situation to Missions, mostly run by Roman Catholic Nuns, and the only schooling they would have received would have been very basic schooling in that Mission environment.

In the main this would have been for non full blood aboriginal children, as those full blooded aborigines in the main were left in the tribal areas. Those ‘half caste’ aborigines were not really accepted as part of the tribes, so their removal ensured in some manner that they were treated a little better than they would be if they were left in that tribal situation. Schooling was not even considered for those full blood aborigines in that tribal environment, so they received no schooling whatsoever at any level, and were not even considered when the word education was spoken of.

That education for those aborigines in that Mission setting would only have been for young children, because in the main, as soon as they reached even the young teen years, they were then removed from the Mission environment and then made their own way in life.

So, here Upfield has Bony, who was raised from a baby receiving not only that basic education, but in fact a High School education, and then a University education leading to a full Degree, which would have been unheard of until the late 60’s, and even then it was an exceedingly rare thing. In some of the early Novels Upfield details Bony as having a Bachelor’s degree, but in some later novels, it is mentioned that Bony has a Masters Degree, which is a further three years at University following three years for that original Bachelor’s Degree.

For this to have actually happened, it then predates even the first Novel, because Bony was even in that first novel already a well established Police Inspector. In those early novels Upfield detailed some of Bony’s early life, albeit sparsely. Bony’s University degree would have effectively dated back to the turn of the 20th Century, and for even white people to have a University education at that time would also have been exceedingly rare, so the fact that Upfield has Bony with a full Degree at that time is a complete fabrication, but, after all, these are indeed works of Fiction.

Bony’s Police Service Rank.

In a manner similar to education, an aborigine of any level, full blooded or even half caste, would not have even been considered to join the Police Force at any level.

Some Half Castes were in fact used by the Police in a role as trackers, where they excelled. Some full blooded aborigines were co opted also as trackers, because of the aborigines immense skill at tracking, be it for animals or fellow humans.

Those aborigines used in that role as trackers were never part of the Police Force other than as extras on an ‘as needed’ basis, and as good as some of them might have been, they still would not have been considered to join the Police Force.

Here, Upfield again has Bony as a member of the Police Force, and that also dates back to at or before the turn of the Century. This also would have been unheard of.

Even if by the wildest imagination, any aborigine was accepted into the Police Force, there is no way whatsoever he would have been even considered to be eligible to either become a Detective or even to be trained for that position.

Even if that wildest of fancies was to be accepted, Upfield has his character with the senior rank of Inspector, and even as early as the 1930’s, around the time frame for those earlier Bony novels, there would have been very few white Police Inspectors.

So, again, all three of these things in this area, Police, Detectives, and an Inspector, are complete fabrications.

So, then why would Upfield have done something like these two things, a University education and his high rank as a member of the Police, even in a work of Fiction.

Let’s look at this from the subliminal perspective.

No other author at the time would have even considered writing a novel about an aborigine with an education, because at that time, the thinking was that they ‘did not have an education’. So, it would not even be part of the thinking of an author.

The same would have applied to an aborigine being a member of the Police Force, let alone a Detective, let alone one of senior rank as an Inspector, and again the thinking at the time was that they could not even achieve something like this.

So here we have Upfield making a conscious decision to give his aboriginal character not one of these things, but all of them. It was totally against all the thinking at the time, so Upfield is not only taking a huge gamble, but is courting absolute ridicule at every turn.

The fact that the matter was probably not even raised at the time shows us that Upfield succeeded immensely at what he was attempting to do.

It would have been easier not to introduce these things, and probably write about a white character who had some of these skills.

It ties in very neatly with the way Upfield treated the aboriginal customs with such respect in his novels, in fact detailing them quite intricately at times.

He has the communities in nearly every setting in all of those novels treating Bony with respect, almost matter of factly, and not grudgingly, both as a man, and also as a high ranking member of the Police Force, even if he is working incognito in most of the novels, and even then, most of the Police in that area knew of him, here not only as  police member, a detective, an Inspector, but now also working under cover.

All of these things Upfield achieves without making it so overt as to draw attention to it, and that obviously took a lot of skill.

At times Upfield has Bony making a distinct point about the way we as whites treated the aborigines, and even at times like that where Upfield got onto the soapbox, again it is almost surreptitious in its nature.

For Upfield, all of these things actually did seem normal, okay, if you like, the way things should be.

Only later have these things come up, saying how ridiculous it was that Upfield had his character with that high education and high rank.

It may have been Fiction, but it was a very clever thing that Upfield did here, writing in a manner that detailed all these things as being acceptable.

See how now it looks like some of those commentators have indeed been approaching this from the wrong direction.

No, Upfield is not a person to be pointed to as reinforcing old stereotypes about the way we as white people treated the aborigines. In fact, he is probably someone to be admired for the way he treated these things as perfectly acceptable, and then included them in his novels in a way that made it all just part of the plot of that particular story he was telling.