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Peter Bonsall-Boone
Peter Bonsall-Boone

" ... Fundamentalist Christians are very keen on turning homosexual men into paederasts ... "


Peter de Waal: Bon, how did you get involved in the project (and I gather it was around 2003)?
Peter Bonsall-Boone  1 : Was it all that long ago! I’m a bit surprised! You were doing all this work and you needed some typing done, that was fairly simple.

Q: During your involvement did you have any doubt about the validity of the project? 
A: No, not at any stage really. I was also buoyed up by the enthusiasm of the [NSW State Records’] archivists to whom I spoke at both Kingswood and The Rocks. They were wildly enthusiastic about this section of Australian history being unveiled.

Q: What do you believe the intrinsic value of the project to be? 
A: I think it will be very valuable for students, researchers and it just is an important part of the history of gay people in Australia. Very few lesbians – well, no lesbians involved, of course.

Q: Do you think we can talk about gay history in this respect? Might it be better to think in terms of situational sex, particularly if we look at the period [1796] we’ve covered right from white settlement in Australia to 1930 the ratio of men was about two men for each single woman, and of course the gay community, as far as we understand it now, do you think there was some evidence for that?
A: Nothing from this project tells me anything about that, except that what my Godfather spoke about in the 20s and 30s in Sydney. Yeah, no doubt there was a lot of situational sex involved. There were many men living together in barracks and well, what do they do when there weren’t enough women?

Q: Can you recall during your involvement which has been close to three years, I gather, can you recall any specific triumphs you felt there were?
A: The major triumph, I think, was cutting out the bestiality ones. I really got tired of typing about “a certain mare,” “a certain bitch dog” and “a certain sow”, and the boot marks on the fallen tree so that the man could reach the mare and all that sort of rubbish. That’s about it.

Q: I just make a little footnote here that originally we started off researching all the cases that were male-to-male sex, as well as bestiality. I think you’ll find in the beginning of the documents there are a number of cases which actually deal with men having sex with animals. As you’ve heard Bonsall just explain his triumph he felt, was to tell me that perhaps was no longer necessary to include.

Q: Now, can you recall any specific disappointments you have felt during your involvement? 
A: My major disappointment was not having any means of finding out what happened to the men who were either acquitted or put in gaol. The ones that were hanged – it was fairly obvious what happened to them – but the others we can’t follow up unfortunately. I would love to be able to do that.

Q: Are there things about victims (as we call them) and perpetrators (as we call them) that stand out in your mind? Are there any particular cases that made an impact on you in particular?
A: Mainly the one about the Maltese people and the intellectually deficient brothers whom they all appear to have raped at some stage or other; although there was no sign that either of the brothers objected to any of this.

Q: Of the 250-odd cases, the depositions, I mean, that you’ve typed during your involvement with the project are there any particular anecdotes, any funny ones, or serious ones, that you can recall?
A: Oh just back to all the details about the man with his boots on the fallen tree and “a certain mare”, that was the only one that stood out as being particularly amusing.

Q: Now all the cases you’ve transcribed (I gather the word count approximately comes to a million and a quarter) so that does seem a fair amount of typing you have done. Any idea how many hours you might have spent? 
A: Oh no, not a clue. Wouldn’t have any idea. Over three years ... laughs

Q: Are there any other points you would like to make that we’ve missed out on, or any overall view of things? 
A: No, I don’t think so. It was very interesting all the time (except for the bestiality) but the rest of it was always interesting. It was interesting to see a sort of change in the way things were dealt with as the period of time went on.

Q: Did any patterns emerge while you were typing the cases, I mean in terms of age difference, or perhaps more cases happening in Greater Sydney compared to the country – are there any things that you became aware of? 
A: It was usually older men with youths, or even younger than that. That was the only pattern I could see, wherever the offences were committed (so called offences).

Q: Once we get to publishing these verbatim documents do you think that people who, I suppose, fundamentalist Christians might look at this and say “You see, it is like that. They’ve always been like that.” Do you think there is a case they can make? 
A: Well, yes fundamentalist Christians are very keen on turning homosexual men into paederasts but I think the point, though, is that there was a lot of gay sex going on. There was not anywhere in Australia where anyone could have said “I’m the only gay in the village” and so the sex that was going on would often have been consensual and between two adults, not between an older man and a youth and these cases just didn’t ever come to light. They were kept quiet enough and there were no mothers or nosy neighbours into checking on, well, 16 Terry Street, for instance.

Thank you very much, Bon.


1  Peter Michael Bonsall-Boone, 1938—, interviewed 2nd April 2006.