“Sweet Country” gives Australia an indigenous hero

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MANY like to think of Ned Kelly, Australia’s favourite 19th-century bushranger, as an Antipodean Robin Hood. His father was an Irish convict who had stolen two pigs; Kelly’s own criminal career began at 14 when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a Chinese pig farmer. Later he and his “band of brothers” formed the notorious Kelly Gang and robbed banks, stole horses and held up trains. They hated the establishment. They terrorised the public. Yet long after his execution in Melbourne in 1880, this bearded criminal is glorified in countless books, films, statues, paintings and songs. On the Australian government’s website he was once declared one of the country’s “greatest folk heroes” (the page seems to have been quietly removed in the past couple of years). 

This hero status is a fallacy. As Warwick Thornton, an indigenous Australian film-maker, has pointed out: “Ned Kelly didn’t steal from the rich and give to the poor. Ned Kelly stole from the rich and the poor and kept it all for himself.” In “Sweet…Continue reading

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