Edward Ned Kelly was Australia’s most famous bushranger; regarded by many as a hero who fought “for the rights of the battler.” Whether Ned Kelly was a hero, however, has been debated throughout Australia’s history. Evidence shows that Ned was a murderous villain who terrorised towns and robbed wealthy pastoralists; a man who broke the law and committed an array of crimes that were both evil and immoral. Ned Kelly was a villain; an outlaw and thief who is wrongly immortalised as an Australian hero.
Ned Kelly was the leader of a lawbreaking group of criminals named the ‘Kelly Gang;’ a group established in 1876 that included Ned, his brother Dan, and their two friends Steve Hart and Joe Byrne. Ned was a significant figure in this gang; constantly plotting and scheming against the policemen who rightly ostracized Ned for his crimes within the community. Ned had “the first of his many run-ins with the police” at the age of only 14 when he was jailed for six months on the charge of assault. He was then sentenced to “three years hard labour for being part of a horse-stealing operation.” Although he was a brave, courageous and loyal “wild colonial boy,” his total disregard for the law shows his evil traits and villainous demeanour; his vengeful nature causing him to commit dangerous crimes against civilians.
One of Ned Kelly’s most infamous crimes was “the police siege of the Kelly Gang in the Glenrowan Hotel”; an offence where Ned’s retribution led him to put the lives of innocent people at risk. This event was a ploy by the Kelly Gang that occurred on the 27th of June, 1880. Ned and his gang ordered 60 hostages into the Glenrowan Hotel in an attempt to trap the police and use them as hostages to get Ned’s mum, Ellen, out of prison. This crude act of malevolence shows the sinister aspect of Ned’s morality during this time. Even though he was driven to this grievous act by the ferocity and sometimes unlawful behaviour of the police, his actions cannot be excused. His crimes were both evil and unforgiveable and were only the start of things that would soon escalate to the villainous act of murder.
The culminating events of Ned Kelly’s life led to the gruesome murder at Stringybark Creek; when Ned knowingly murdered three innocent policemen. This incident occurred in October, 1880 when a group of policemen were searching for Ned and his brother Dan near the Wombat Ranges. This small contingency of officers included Sergeant Kennedy and Constables McIntyre, Lonigan and Scalon. While searching for Dan and Ned, the officers split into two groups in order to find the fugitives. Even though the officers were disguised as prospectors, Dan and Ned recognised them immediately and began shooting at them. During the battle, three of the officers died; only McIntyre managed to escape and return back to testify against Ned. Although some historians believe that the murder of these officers at Stringybark Creek was an accident, evidence shows that Ned deliberately shot at these innocent men. Just before leaving the crime scene, Ned stole Sergeant Kennedy’s gold watch and later stated, “What's the use of a watch to a dead man?" These evil, soulless words were truly spoken by a cruel and deplorable villain.
Even though many consider Ned Kelly to be a significant national representative of Australian culture and heroism, the evil deeds that Ned Kelly committed during his life were not forgotten on the 27th of June, 1880. His criminal record was mostly overshadowed by his brave, courageous and loyal traits that won him the love of his people during the late nineteenth century. Although he was brave, courageous and loyal, he still possessed “the outward traits of a creature born to crime;” born into a life that would lead him to become Australia’s most legendary and notorious villain.