Ned Kelly: The Multiple Truths of Australia’s Most Famous Bushranger


In a line-up of all the Australian criminals, who sparked fear in the community and generated business for the law and justice systems in the colonial era, no individual stands taller than Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly of Victoria. Of all the bushrangers it is Kelly, and his Gang, who maintains a prominent place within Australian history as a cultural and popular icon. This situates Kelly alongside many other bushrangers – men who robbed, raped and murdered their way across the Australian outback in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – who are now the heroes of folklore. Men who have been celebrated in a wide variety of histories: in illustrations and paintings, in articles and books, in newspaper reportage as well as in traditional songs. The practice of celebrating Kelly across a range of creative outputs including art, crime fiction, true crime and song, is not, however, undertaken without some criticism. There are certainly some who consider Kelly to be a hero, a young man rebelling against unwarranted police persecution and profiling. Yet many others, position Kelly as a villain, one who did not hesitate to engage in, and to lead others in, a diverse range of criminal activities from the stealing of livestock to the murdering of policemen. This research looks briefly at Edward Kelly’s story, not as a neat narrative but as a colloquium of voices, a suite of contested truths that surround Australia’s most famous bushranger.

Author Information
Rachel Franks, The University of Sydney, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2017
Stream: Literature - Historical and Political Literature

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon