Bushranger

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A bushranger was a thief who lived in the Australian bush. Bushrangers often stole expensive things from banks or coaches. There were more than 2000 bushrangers during Australia's past. Most were simply criminals and thieves. A few bushrangers became famous and were seen as heroes. They are part of a long history that has men such as Robin Hood and Dick Turpin in England, or Jesse James and Billy the Kid in the US.[1]

History[change | edit source]

The word "bushranger" was first used in Australia in 1805. It described three men who had stopped a cart near Sydney. Then, the word was used for criminals who attacked people on the roads or in the bush (the Australian countryside away from towns).

The first bushrangers were escaped convicts. One of the last bushrangers was Ned Kelly who was captured in 1880.[2]

1788 to 1840s: Criminals who escaped[change | edit source]

Criminals who escaped stole things from farms far away and people walking on the roads. Sometimes they sold the stolen things to other free settlers.

John "Black" Caesar was the first bushranger.[2] He ran away from Sydney Cove many times before he was shot dead in 1796.

Bold Jack Donahue[2] appeared in newspapers around 1827 for bushranging on the road between Sydney and Windsor. In the 1830s he was seen as the worst bushranger in the colony.[3] Leading a gang of escaped criminals, Donahue became an important person in Australian folklore as the Wild Colonial Boy.[2]

Bushranging happened all over Australia, but Van Diemen's Land (later known as Tasmania) produced the most violent and serious bushrangers.[2] Hundreds of criminals were at large in the bush, farms were given up, and the army was brought in to try and capture the bushrangers. Indigenous Australian bushranger Musquito led attacks on settlers.

1850s: gold rush era[change | edit source]

The bushrangers were busiest during the Gold Rush years of the 1850s and 1860s. Gold can be easily carried and also it can easily be turned into cash. The goldfields were in remote places and there were not very many police to guard the gold.[2]

George Melville was killed by hanging in front of many people for stealing from the McIvor gold escort near Castlemaine in 1853.[2]

1860s to 1870s[change | edit source]

Bushranging numbers grew in New South Wales with the rise of the colonial-born sons of poor, often ex-convict farmers, who wanted a more exciting life than mining or farming.[2]

Much of the bushranging in these years was in the Lachlan Valley, around Forbes, Yass and Cowra.[2]

Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert and Ben Hall led the most notorious gangs of the period. Other active bushrangers included Dan Morgan, based around the Murray River, and Captain Thunderbolt, killed outside Uralla, New South Wales.[2]

1880s to 1900s[change | edit source]

The increasing push of settlement, increased police efficiency, better rail transport and communications, such as telegraphy, made it increasingly difficult for bushrangers to evade capture.

Among the last bushrangers was the Kelly Gang led by Ned Kelly, who were captured at Glenrowan, Victoria in 1880, two years after they were outlawed.

In 1900 the Governor Brothers scared many people in the north of New South Wales.[2]

Public perception[change | edit source]

In Australia, bushrangers often attract public sympathy.

Entertainment[change | edit source]

In the same way that outlaws feature in many movies of the American western genre, bushrangers regularly feature in Australian literature, movie, music and television. These include:

Famous bushrangers[change | edit source]

Some bushrangers became famous as a result of their activities. They include:

References[change | edit source]