The Bush Detective – A legend of the Riverland

One of the most remarkable people I ever met just happened to be my Uncle Max.

He was known as “Uncle Max” by most of the people who came in contact with him, be they young or old but he really was my uncle, my mother’s sister’s husband.

Max Jones was a bush detective ,  running the Riverland CIB – operating out of Renmark on the banks of the mighty Murray River.

Riverland Detective Max Jones with statue of  The Possum

  Riverland Detective Max Jones with statue of The Possum

Uncle Max retired as a detective Sergeant but he had the ability to go all the way to the top.  That he didn’t was a true measure of the man. He turned down promotion after promotion deciding he could best do his work in his adopted Riverland.

Tough when he needed to be, Uncle Max tracked down and locked up the baddies but even in bringing felons and wrong doers to justice he never lost their respect.

There are so many stories of Uncle Max helping ex cons get back into society, helping them find a job and a place to live.

To quote former Renmark Mayor LG Sims

“Max would often ask the Courts to show leniency towards a defendant saying he could get them a job.  He was regularly called in to interrogate suspects who’d say they’d talk to no-one but ‘Uncle Max’.  His handling of offenders won their respect and many, through his influence, never returned to a life of crime.

 Max Jones was a tireless worker in the community outside his police duties and together with his wife Bette, set an outstanding example for the Riverland community.”  

 It never ceased to amaze be me seeing obviously hardened ex crims, often much older than him coming up to Max and treating him with utter reverence “G’day Unc, thanks for putting me on the straight and narrow, I’ll never forget you helping me in tough times.”

My visits to the Riverland as a young boy were something special. Fishing, shooting and hunting and just mucking about along the mighty River Murray with my older cousin (Max’s son) was right out of a Mark Twain Tom Sawyer yarn.

Academy Award winning cinematographer Dean Semmler grew up in the Riverland and knew Uncle Max well.

Along with many of my age group born in Renmark, during our school days and adolescent years we were fortunate to have the gentle guidance of our local detective, Max Jones, and known to all as Uncle Max.

 He worked long, hard hours and was always likely to turn up when least expected.  When the hour was late he’d notice a group of us lads, stop and tell us a couple of yarns and gently suggest that it would be a good idea if we toddled off home because our parents might be worried.”

 We all respected him for his fair and just treatment of those who came under his notice.  He was the person who you could approach with any problem and trust him to do his best for you”. Dean Semler

As an adult with my young family we spend many a holiday with Uncle Max and Aunty Bette, holidays that we will always treasure.

I remember how Uncle Max used to make time for me even when I was a young boy, made me feel like I had something  worth listening to.  It was only when I grew up that I realised he had that effect on everyone he came in contact with.

Max Jones was a unique human being and I feel very privileged having been able to spend so much time in his presence.

Max also introduced me to another unique Riverland character – A man called Possum – but that’s a story for another time.

Max Jones wrote a number of books about his life in the Riverland


One thought on “The Bush Detective – A legend of the Riverland

  1. Mark Andrew Zanker

    Twenty years or so ago I heard Max Jones speaking on ABC Radio National about his book A Man Called Possum. I was so impressed that I rang Max up and asked him if I could come to Paringa in South Australia where he lived and have a yarn to him. What followed was one of the most memorable encounters with a a wise, humble and insightful man that I have ever experienced. He was almost totally blind by then. He had an office set up in his garage, and I helped him to tidy it up and sort out some of his papers. I had all of his books, but changed circumstances in recent years required me to dispose of my library, but I have never forgotten Max or the wonderful stories he relates in the books.


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