Aussie ABC – B is for Bushranger!

Last Updated on December 7, 2017 by Red Nomad OZ

Kenniff Monument, Mitchell QLD

What do Aussies call a person who a) makes a living from criminal activity; b) is on the run from the law; c) is likely armed and dangerous; d) lives outside mainstream society; and e) has probably killed – most likely police officers?

WRONG! Not a murdering psychopath!!  Guess again!

NO! Not a terrorist! And to save you the time, nor is it highwayman, brigand, bandit, pirate, robber, outlaw, smuggler, Merrie Man, politician or rebel without a cause!

Yeah, the title’s a dead give-away – Bushrangers! And as sure as 19th century graffiti eventually becomes ‘important cultural and historic landmarks’, so do our colonial delinquents become folk heroes!
‘Waltzing Matilda’ – the scene by the billabong

We’ve got no hope – even the swagman of (arguably) our best known song, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was a sheep thief! Hands up non-Aussie readers who think that’s the Australian National Anthem?? HHHMMMmmm… thought so! If you want the REAL story, visit the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, QLD – which is, incidentally, the only museum in the world devoted to a song!

So why are they heroes? Like their motherland counterpart Robin Hood, many bushrangers put the equitable redistribution of wealth principle into action, especially if that wealth was from stations run by English conglomerates that threatened smaller landholders.  In which case  public opinion generally came down on the bushranger’s side!
Say ‘Bushranger’ to almost anyone – and ‘Ned Kelly’ is a likely response. Ned and his imaginatively nicknamed ‘Kelly gang’, terrorised Victoria’s Wombat ranges, stealing livestock, shooting policemen and robbing various facilities before a shoot-out in which Ned was shot, then captured and hanged. But not only is his life is celebrated in song, the world’s first feature film, art and the Man Booker prize winning book, his reported last words – ‘Such is life’ – are part of the Aussie lingo. And in the ultimate accolade (or embarrassment – YOU decide!!), he’s now ‘Big Ned’, another Australian ‘Big Thing’!

Bushrangers Cave, Cania Gorge QLD

Head ‘Outback’, and bushranger caves, hideouts and lookout points are as thick as thieves! You can pretty much depend upon it that the longest hike, the highest climb, the remotest area is where bushranger hideouts will be. The pre-requisites – hidden, extensive view, escape route – mean they’re quite coincidentally in areas of wild, natural beauty, with expansive and panoramic vistas. And therefore well worth a visit!

The subject of a previous post, Starlight’s lookout, named for the hero in Rolf Boldrewood’s ‘Robbery Under Arms’, in turn named for real-life bushranger Harry Redford, is one such haunt. 

Rock Formations, Mt Moffatt
But the lesser known Kenniff brothers hid out in what is now the Mt Moffatt National Park, a remote and largely inaccessible area of spectacular beauty. After shooting a policman and station manager, they cremated the bodies and placed the remains in the police packhorse saddlebags. The ensuing manhunt ended with arrest and subsequent trial at nearby Mitchell’s courthouse – where the transcript can be read. While one brother was convicted of murder and hanged the other was released from prison a few years later and died a natural death.

Marlong Arch, Mt Moffatt National Park

How likely are you to encounter a bushranger in Australia today? Well … sky high livestock prices courtesy of recent floods, hot of the heels of years of crippling drought have put temptation in the path of opportunists once again. Reports of livestock theft are on the increase, with a recent reminder on an ABC TV* program that despite our national heritage, theft is theft! It’s unknown however, whether they, like the bushrangers of yesteryear, steal only from those more wealthy than themselves!

Mt Moffatt National Park

Unless a present-day bushranger wants notoriety (in which case s/he is likely to have a Facebook page) you probably won’t know if you’ve encountered one! How much further would the old-time bushrangers have got with the benefits of technology?!

How will history treat the modern day bushranger, now that the precedent’s already been set? They’re just following an almost sacred Aussie tradition … and our natural inclination to romanticize the past may well mean a future ‘Big Thing’ to rival Ned Kelly!

*Australian Broadcasting Corporation – government owned TV station

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  1. @JD – thanx so much! It doesn’t take more than a few generations for ‘grotesque’ to become ‘nostalgia’!!

  2. Great post – you know your stuff don’t you? I may not comment a lot, but I’m really enjoying your blog. NZ has a similar history, but not quite as culturally significant; the MacKenzie Country is named after a Scottish sheep-thief. Also in the U.K. the Krays & more recently Raoul Moat are seen by many as modern-day Robin Hoods (another example!), although actually they were psychopathic killers

  3. @Toni – I’m sure it’s just the ‘bad boy’ thing!! And also the names – how could you resist ‘Starlight’ and ‘Thunderbolt’? Does BH’s grandson have wayward tendencies??!!

  4. Fab post! I loved it cos I was fascinated by the bushrangers as a teenager, maybe it was the romance…
    Mad Dog Morgan, the Kelly Gang, Jack Donahue and The Strippers, Captain Thunderbolt…
    I knew a guy who is the great-grandson of Ben Hall, too.

  5. @Madama – Welcome! And thanx for following!! Just wait ’til you see what’s next up!!
    @Manzanita – hey girlfriend, I bet you get confused looks whichever of the ‘B’ words you use!!
    @Arti – I’m betting that as Victoria is Ned Kelly’s heartland, that’s why they called themselves the Bushrangers! Thanx for dropping by, drop back fr a visit anytime you want amusement, entertainment and information!!

  6. The only time I have heard of bushranger is the Aussie side Victoria Bushrangers in the big bash cricket!!
    Loved the post, great pics, especially loved the cave one…
    Nice blog, thanks for visiting mine. Keep coming.
    Have a nice day:-)

  7. HEY Red,
    Neat post. Now I’ll get Bushrangers mixed up with Bushwacker. Although they are kinda alike…. both lawless, aren’t they? I like the Waltzing Mathilda bit and the vid. The pictures of the rock formations are grand. Rather Stonehenge’ee. And Ned kelley…. I know I’ve heard about him somewhere in my vast past.
    May your weekend be super.
    Love and peace

  8. @Michelle – Go ahead!! Test it out and see who knows what it means!!
    @River – I’m sure the landlord wouldn’t mind! But maybe an enlarged photo stuck to the fence might work better?? And plenty more good places to go, my friend!

  9. Oh My Goodness!! I love that Bushrangers Cave!
    I want one in my backyard. Wonder if the landlord would mind?
    The red sculpture is great too.
    You find the BEST places.

  10. @TGN – yep, can’t swing a possum by the tail downunder without hitting a local hero!! I’ll keep the info coming – all you have to do is keep coming back for more!! LOVE how you say ‘y’all’ all the time!!
    @Canadian Coupon Mum – Welcome! What kind of coincidence is it that each of our names has 3 elements mutually exclusive to the other!!
    @Betty – always a pleasure to see you – ESPECIALLY with comments like those! Come back any time!! The ABC will continue – guess what ‘C’ stands for?!?!?!
    @Jenn – welcome! You’ve lucked out! I’ve got lenty more useless info where that came from …
    @Andrew – oh, I get it. You think Ben Cousins should be Aussie ABC b AND c, huh?? Here’s a thought – why not link to MY post AND BC’s tatts on YOUR blog?!?! Win-win!! And tell your mate ANYTHING reliant on bureaucracy is just begging for administrative error!
    @Jayne – a snort is the only sane reaction … and yes, there are stories within stories – we’re only a step away from the wild frontier!
    @NJAMB – welcome! I KNOW there’s nothing wrong with my spelling – it just depends what version of English you think is ‘correct’!!
    @Kath – you’re a brave woman considering I have a number of regular VIC readers … but as you’ll see above, some of them have different alliegences …

  11. As a fellow Aussie, I must confess that I’m still mystified by our reverence of Ned Kelly. But dare saying that whilst living in Victoria….?!

  12. Great post! Very informative. I loved it!

    And there’s nothing wrong with your spelling! 🙂

  13. *snort* @ Andrew’s comment re Ben Cousins tatt 😉

    Waltzing Matilda was based on a union bloke who was actually murdered to stop the shearer’s strike.
    Yes, we’re such a staid, calm little corner of the world NOT! lol

  14. ‘words – ‘Such is life’ – are part of the Aussie lingo’ I would have inserted a link to a photo of Ben Cousin’s with his tattoo showing, but then I would find any reason to use a photo of Cousins. A friend set up the national cattle id scheme. I guess it can be beaten.

  15. I never knew! Now Waltzing Matilda is going to be in my head all day. 🙂
    New blog hop follower
    Sweet T Makes Three

  16. Great, informative post! Love this idea of Aussie ABCs, too. 🙂

    Awesome review, I love your writing style.
    Thanks so much for providing such brilliant info.
    I love Aussie tradition.

    Hope you’re having a great weekend!

    Big hugs!

    B xx

  17. LOVE this idea of the Aussie ABCs! Can’t wait to learn more about ya’ll down under 🙂 And I will have to remember Bushrangler, so cool ya’ll have tons of outback heroes!

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