Ned Kelly’s last stand

On this day we commemorate the last stand of Ned Kelly and his gang at the Glenrowan Hotel (Monday 29th of June 1880).

Ned Kelly was a man who was, in many ways, “larger than life”; a man who had done wrong, but who had also been wronged, and who took on the might of the state, fighting against incredible odds. He was undeniably brave; even as a child, he rescued a young boy from drowning; his bravery, dash, and daring was shown in his later exploits, leading to the Australian saying “As game as Ned Kelly”.

It is not Ned Kelly the criminal that Australians commemorate as such, but the qualities of the man that gave rise to the Ned Kelly legend and found expression within the Australian spirit: bravery, dash and daring, a certain gallantry and chivalry, a wariness of officialdom, a healthy rebelliousness, and an anti-authoritarian outlook.

Ned was no angel. Indeed, there is evidence that, as well as committing the bank robberies for which he is well-known, he was also participating in large-scale horse stealing. At worst, he is also responsible for the killing of three policemen at Stringybark Creek. However, there is evidence to indicate that he was also a victim of miscarriages of justice; in many ways, he was a man driven to desperation by the actions of some who sought to bring him down.

Whilst in jail for his trial, Ned Kelly gave a newspaper reporter his side of the story:
“I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life, or that one fault justifies another . . . Let the hand of the law strike me down if it will, but I ask that my story might be heard and considered; not that I wish to avert any decree the law may deem necessary to vindicate justice, or win a word of pity from anyone. If my life teaches the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away. People who live in large towns have no idea of the tyrannical conduct of the police in country places far removed from court; they have no idea of the harsh and overbearing manner in which they execute their duty, or how they neglect their duty and abuse their powers.”

The legend of Ned Kelly may be seen as similar to overseas examples of outlaw rebels, those who engage in a campaign of serious crimes but who also incorporate a political or social justice slant to their persona, and who are supported by a section of the population who regard them as heroes. In this, the story of Ned Kelly may be seen as similar to the stories of Robin Hood (England), Carmine Crocco (Italy), Jesse James (USA), and Billy the Kid (USA).

On this day we should also remember the bravery of the police who risked their lives to end the reign of the Kelly Gang (although the overall campaign by the state was marred by instances of mistakes, wrongdoings, and even corruption). The ordinary police did their duty to enforce the rule of law, as it must be; after all, without the ongoing efforts of the police our society would end up in a state of anarchy, where anyone with a weapon could rob and kill at will. What if the Kelly Gang was not stopped by the police? How many more shootings and robberies would have resulted? How many more might have been encouraged to take to the life of a bushranger? It is one thing to appreciate the legend, but quite another to take the wider view and maturely consider what course of action should have been taken by the government in such circumstances (along with weighing up the potential consequences of such actions).

Like other outlaw rebels, Ned Kelly was, of course, far from perfect; he was a bank robber, a horse thief (the modern-day equivalent would be a car thief), and he killed three policemen (he also attempted to derail the special police train near Glenrowan, which may have resulted in the death of more). Whilst many of us may appreciate the legend of Ned Kelly in an abstract or folkloric sense, we would not be happy if a modern-day Ned Kelly shot down policemen in the street; or robbed a bank (especially one where a friend or family member worked, and had a gun stuck in their face); and how many of us would be happy if our car was stolen?

Nonetheless, the legend of Ned Kelly remains. It is a legend that can inspire us to bravery.

In the Second World War, Clive Turnbull’s book Ned Kelly: Being His Own Story of His Life and Crimes invoked the bravery of Ned Kelly as an inspiration for our fighting men.

“Ned Kelly was a Gentleman” was a popular poem produced during the war that encouraged Australians in their fight against the Japanese:
I think it was a pity they hanged him from a rope.
They made Australian history, but they shattered Kelly’s hope.
… And perhaps now in Australia we’d have millions trained with him,
All laughing with a vengeance at the little yellow men.
If Ned and the guerillas were with us here today
The Japs would not be prowling around New Guinea and Milne Bay.
Since Ned went over the Border, there has been many a change,
Yet we may adopt his tactics around the Owen Stanley Range.
Poor Ned, he was a gentleman, but never understood.
We want men of such mettle now to stem the yellow flood!

Ned Kelly would no doubt have been horrified at the state of Australia today. In a letter to Sir Henry Parkes (Premier of New South Wales), dated 10th of March 1879, Ned expressed his displeasure at the amount of Third World immigration coming into Australia:
“I tell you that highway robbery is only in its infancy, for the white population is been driven out of the labour market by an inundation of Mongolians, and when the white man is driven to desperation there will be desperate times.”

The rebellious spirit of Ned Kelly inspired many others. The poet John Manifold once wrote:
And no man single-handed can hope to break the bars;
It’s a thousand like Ned Kelly who will hoist the flag of stars.

Ned Kelly was hanged on the 11th of November 1880 at the old Melbourne Jail. He was a man who had turned against the law, but who could have been so much more.

The Kelly legend remains to inspire patriots to steel themselves to stand up against the treachery of the anti-national types who are running our country. Today, Australian nationalists invoke the Kelly spirit in the fight for Australia against foreign ownership, Third World immigration, Islamification, authoritarianism, and government treachery. May the true blue Australian spirit live forever!

Kelly, Edward (Ned) (1855 – 1880), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition
Our Ned Kelly, Convict Creations
Ned Kelly: Beveridge to Euroa: Preface to a Legend, Iron Outlaw
Ned Kelly: Jerilderie to Melbourne: Funding a Republic, Iron Outlaw
The Further Trials Of Ned Kelly (Captain Jack Hoyle, retired), Iron Outlaw
Interview with Ned Kelly, The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) [reprint from The Age], 14 August 1880, p.2S
The Parkes Letter, Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture
Ned Kelly, Wikipedia


  1. RomanGoddess says

    Might help if the other 'great Australian spirit' of "She'll be right" was bitchslapped upside the head. Complacency is what is killing this nation – too many people content to let 'she'll be right' dominate their attitude. Inspire the taxpayers to skive off work for a week, and all mortgagees to forego a monthly mortgage payment – we will bring the government AND the banks to their knees.

    Until the people of this country REMEMBER that they are in fact RUNNING IT, NOT THE GOVERNMENT (at least, in my understanding of the true meaning of 'democracy'), and are willing to stand together to ROUT the usurper (GHOULIA the backstabbing commie bitch) then we have no hope of creating a Kelly-esque siege. The demands of minorities are always heard, why can't the majority get their act together and DO LIKEWISE?

    • Warung Discussion says

      Good idea! very good! How to organise it? who will stand up and fight?

      If only we could get it to happen

      Bring back the unions to help us organise!

  2. Fred Kern says

    Yeah, if we had a thousand like Ned Kelly we could easily break the hold of the governments who have been selling us out!

    Labor or Liberal – it does not matter who is in government, they all sell us out.

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