Bushrangers were highwaymen or robbers in the Australian bush or outback. The rise of bushrangers in Australia began during the early colonial period in the late 18th century. They were typically escaped convicts and some even started their own criminal careers. Bushrangers usually operated alone or in small groups and typically targeted stagecoaches, travelers, and mail carriers, robbing them of money, food, and any valuables they might have had. Some famous bushrangers include Ned Kelly, Ben Hall, and Joe Byrne. The downfall of bushranging in Australia was due to increased law enforcement measures, modern prisons, and the use of telegraphs and railway systems.
Bushrangers of Australia: Tales of Infamy and Adventure
When we think of the Wild West and its outlaws, we might be quick to believe that the United States had a monopoly on notorious bandits. However, Australia had its fair share of outlaws called bushrangers. Bushrangers were highwaymen or robbers in the Australian bush or outback countryside. They were typically escaped convicts and some even started their own criminal careers. Some were motivated by desperation, poor living conditions, and the injustice of the law, while others were simply opportunistic criminals. Whatever their motivations may have been, bushrangers remain an integral part of Australia’s history and folklore.
The rise of bushrangers in Australia
Bushranging started during the early colonial period in Australia, in the late 18th century. Colonists were sent to Australia for various reasons, ranging from minor crimes to political convictions. After arriving in Australia, they were sentenced to hard labor in the colonies, which included working on farms, logging, and other backbreaking jobs. However, many of the penal colonies were short-staffed, which allowed convicts to escape and become outlaws. The first bushrangers were not very successful, as they were often caught and punished severely. However, as more convicts arrived and unemployment increased, more and more people took to bushranging to earn a living.
The modus operandi of bushrangers
Bushrangers usually operated alone or in small groups. They typically targeted stagecoaches, travelers, and mail carriers, robbing them of money, food, and any valuables they might have had. They often wore disguises, such as dark masks, to hide their identities. They also had to be skilled in bushcraft to survive, as they usually lived in the wilderness with little access to supplies, which made them experts in hunting, tracking, and living off the land. Many bushrangers also developed a knack for eluding police authorities and would often escape from prisons or police custody.
Some Famous Bushrangers of Australia
Perhaps the most famous and enduring bushranger in Australia’s history is Ned Kelly. Born in Victoria in 1855, Kelly became a notorious outlaw in the late 19th century. He grew up in poverty and was regularly in trouble with the law. In 1878, he and his gang robbed a bank in the rural town of Euroa. They stole £2000, a considerable sum of money at the time. The Kelly gang then went on to brutally murder three police officers at Stringybark Creek in 1878. The killings ignited nationwide manhunt for the gang. Eventually, Kelly was cornered and captured in Glenrowan, where he was shot and captured. He was later tried and hanged in 1880 in Melbourne, aged just 25 years old.
Another famous bushranger is Ben Hall. He was born in New South Wales in 1837 and became an outlaw after being falsely accused of horse stealing. Hall was a skilled horseman and clever criminal who was known for his daring raids on stagecoaches and the railways. He was particularly successful during the early 1860s, but his crime spree came to an end when police shot and killed him in 1865. His reputation as a daring and charismatic outlaw is still widely held in Australia today.
Joe Byrne was a member of the infamous Kelly Gang. With Ned Kelly, he was responsible for the murder of three police officers at Stringybark Creek. Like Kelly, Byrne was born in Victoria and was already in trouble with the law before joining the Kelly Gang. Unlike most of the members of his gang who were caught and hanged, Byrne died during an ambush in 1880. Byrne’s corpse was later decapitated, and his head was taken on tour across Victoria, where people could pay to see it.
Q. Why did bushrangers become famous?
Bushrangers became famous for their daring robberies, escapes from prison, and their abilities to elude police. They were also known for their romantic or heroic image, as many Australians believed that bushrangers were fighting against an unjust colonial government that treated them harshly.
Q. How did bushrangers operate?
Bushrangers typically operated alone or in small groups. They targeted stagecoaches, travelers, and mail carriers, robbing them of money, food, and valuables. They often wore disguises, such as dark masks, to hide their identities. They had to be skilled in bushcraft to survive, as they usually lived in the wilderness with little access to supplies.
Q. Was bushranging a common practice in Australia?
Although not widespread, bushranging was a common practice in Australia. For many convicts, it was a way to escape the harsh conditions of colonial life and earn a living. Although most bushrangers were caught and punished, some, like Ned Kelly, became famous for their daring escapades.
Q. How did bushrangers come to an end?
The rise of professional police forces, the use of telegraphs and railway systems, and modern prisons eventually led to the end of bushranging in Australia. These increased law enforcement measures made it more challenging for bushrangers to elude and rob people, leading to the downfall of bushranging as a criminal practice.
In conclusion, bushrangers of Australia have contributed immensely to the country’s history and folklore. Their daring robberies, escapes from prison, ability to elude police, and their so-called heroic image have captivated people’s attention for centuries. Although the instances of bushranging have significantly decreased in the modern-day, many Australians still hold fond memories of the brave and daring men and women of the wilderness.