Monday, October 10, 2011

Bushrangers: Heros or thugs?

The likes of Ned Kelly and Ben Hall have captured the Australian imagination and become the focus of our folklore and mythology. They are often portrayed as victims of authoritarian oppression and champions of the downtrodden.

But what would we think if we could look ahead, maybe a century and a half into the future, and see today’s car thieves, home invaders, armed robbers and murderers being celebrated as national heroes?

Channel Seven is currently running the Wild Boys series which has been described as a “boys own” adventure. It portrays a police force headed by a ruthless leader who is not averse to breaking the law himself to make sure his idea of order is upheld. The heroes are a group of lovable larrikins whose only failing is their regular practice of holding travellers at gunpoint to relieve them of their valuables.

The series plays up the romanticised picture of the bushranger as loveable rogue that has made heroes of some of the most ruthless criminals in our history. Even the term “bushranger creates a more romantic image than words that more accurately describe their lives and criminal pursuits.

How would you picture a group of men who break into your home and hold you hostage for hours, making threats of violence, demanding to be fed and then taking as many of your possessions as they can carry? Would you find it excusable if they came from a disadvantaged family or had been given a raw deal by the authorities? I’m sure not!

Recently I have read two new books dealing with the subject of Bushrangers. My brief reviews can be found here: