Ned Kelly a true Australian icon?

Essay by macca11874High School, 12th grade April 2010

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In 1880, at 25 years of age, Ned Kelly was charged with murder and subsequently hanged in Melbourne Gaol. He had previously had numerous run-ins with the law and had served a number of years in prison. Despite his apparent lifetime of crime, Ned Kelly has emerged as one of the most iconic legends of Australian history, best exemplified by the central role of his image in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. This essay analyses one key aspect of the Kelly legend: why Ned Kelly became a hero in North-Eastern Victoria during the 1870s and the 1880s. It draws on a wide range of literature, from academic to partisan, and on visits to museums and jails to argue that three inter-related factors explain his hero status. The first factor is the socio-economic climate in North-Eastern Victoria, particularly influenced by the Land Acts, that created an environment in which antagonism to the law and support for activities such as bushranging and horse thieving could flourish. The second is the role of the police, a largely untrained force that was seen to be partisan and acting on behalf of large landowners. The third factor was the support provided to Ned Kelly and his Gang by an extended group of sympathisers. This essay argues that, despite the combined authority and actions of the political establishment, the police force, organised religion and the newspapers, these three factors coalesced to initially support Ned Kelly and his Gang and, after his death, to award him hero status.

Length: 255 words



Abstract 2

Introduction 4

The Life of Ned Kelly 5

Kelly a hero? 6

Explaining hero status

Socio-economic influences 8

Relations with the police 9

The impact of clan 12

Other possible factors 14

Conclusion 15

Bibliography 16...