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For other uses, see Bushranger (disambiguation).
William Strutt's Bushrangers on the St Kilda Road, painted in 1887, depicts what Strutt described as "one of the most daring robberies attempted in Victoria" in 1852.[1] The road was the scene of frequent hold-ups during the Victorian gold rush by bushrangers, mostly former convicts from Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen's Land), which collectively became known as the St Kilda Road robberies.

Bushrangers, or bush rangers, originally referred to runaway convicts in the early years of the British settlement of Australia who had the survival skills necessary to use the Australian bush as a refuge to hide from the authorities. The term "bushranger" then evolved to refer to those who abandoned social rights and privileges to take up "robbery under arms" as a way of life, using the bush as their base.[2] These bushrangers were roughly analogous to British "highwaymen" and outlaws of the American Old West, and their crimes often included robbing small-town banks or coach services.


More than 2000 bushrangers are believed to have roamed the Australian countryside, beginning with the convict bolters and drawing to a close after Ned Kelly's last stand at Glenrowan.[3]

1850s: gold rush era[edit]

The bushrangers' hayday was the Gold Rush years of the 1850s and 1860s as the discovery of gold gave bushrangers access to great wealth that was portable and easily converted to cash. Their task was assisted by the isolated location of the goldfields and a police force decimated by troopers abandoning their duties to join the gold rush.[3]

George Melville was hanged in front of a large crowd for robbing the McIvor gold escort near Castlemaine in 1853.[3]

1860s to 1870s[edit]

Bushranging numbers flourished in New South Wales with the rise of the colonial-born sons of poor, often ex-convict squatters who were drawn to a more glamorous life than mining or farming.[3]

Much of the activity in this era was in the Lachlan Valley, around Forbes, Yass and Cowra.[3]

Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert and Ben Hall led the most notorious gangs of the period. Other active bushrangers included Dan Morgan, based in the Murray River, and Captain Thunderbolt.[3] Thunderbolt was the most successful Australian bushranger, if bushranging longevity is the benchmark, as he bushranged across northern New South Wales for six-and-a-half years until shot near Uralla in 1870.[4] With his death, the New South Wales bushranging epidemic of the 1860s officially ended.[5]

1880s to 1900s[edit]

The increasing push of settlement, increased police efficiency, improvements in rail transport and communications technology, such as telegraphy, made it increasingly difficult for bushrangers to evade capture.

Among the last bushrangers was the Kelly Gang led by Ned Kelly, who were captured at Glenrowan in 1880, two years after they were outlawed.

In 1900 the indigenous Governor Brothers terrorised much of northern New South Wales.[3]

Public perception[edit]

In Australia, bushrangers often attract public sympathy (cf. the concept of social bandits). In Australian history and iconography bushrangers are held in some esteem in some quarters due to the harshness and anti-Catholicism of the colonial authorities whom they embarrassed, and the romanticism of the lawlessness they represented. Some bushrangers, most notably Ned Kelly in his Jerilderie letter, and in his final raid on Glenrowan, explicitly represented themselves as political rebels. Attitudes to Kelly, by far the most well-known bushranger, exemplify the ambivalent views of Australians regarding bushranging. Victoria's state cricket team adopted 'Bushrangers' as their team nickname in honour of those such as the Kelly Gang, who lived in the Victorian bush.

In popular culture[edit]

Actor playing Ned Kelly in The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), the world's first feature film

Notable bushrangers[edit]

Name Lived Area of activity Fate
Locky Taylor "Gentleman Bushranger" 1799 – 4 May 1826 Van Diemen's Land (now known as Tasmania) Captured by John Batman, hanged
John Whitehead ? – 1815? Van Diemen's Land (now known as Tasmania) Shot by soldiers; decapitated after death by Michael Howe (according to Whitehead's request)
Michael Howe 1787 – 21 October 1818 Van Diemans Land / Tasmania Captured and killed by William Pugh and Thomas Worrall (convict)
Jack Bradshaw[13] 1880 North West Slopes and New England regions, New South Wales Died of old age
Mary Ann Bugg 1834–1905 Northern New South Wales Lover of Captain Thunderbolt, died of old age
Joe Byrne, one of the Kelly Gang 1857–1880 North East Victoria Shot by police
John Caesar 1764–1796 Sydney area Shot
Martin Cash c. 1808–1877 Tasmania Prison sentence, released after 13 years
Clarke brothers 1840/1846-1867 New South Wales Hanged
Edward Davis, Teddy the Jewboy d.1841 Northern New South Wales Hanged for murder 16 March 1841
John Donahue, known as Bold Jack Donahue c. 1806–1830 Sydney area Shot by police
John Dunn 1846–1866 Western New South Wales Hanged
John Francis c. 1825–? Victoria Gold Fields (1853) Released after giving Queen's Evidence
John Fuller, known as Dan Mad Dog Morgan c. 1830–1865 New South Wales Shot
Frank Gardiner c. 1829–c. 1904 Western New South Wales Prison sentence, then moved to California
John Gilbert 1842–1865 Western New South Wales Shot by police
Jimmy Governor 1875–1901 New South Wales Hanged
Ben Hall 1837–1865 Western New South Wales Shot by police
Steve Hart, one of the Kelly Gang 1859–1880 North East Victoria Probably suicide
Thomas Hobson, known as The Angel, Mark Angel[14] 1859-1885[15] Coonamble, New South Wales Shot
John James, alias Johnston[16] b. 1819 Hobson's Bay, Victoria 15 years' hard labour, free pardon after 6[17]
Joseph Bolitho Johns, known as Moondyne Joe c. 1828–1900 Western Australia Numerous prison sentences, died a free man
Henry Johnson, known as Harry Power 1819–1891 North East Victoria Prison sentence, released
Dan Kelly, brother of Ned Kelly c. 1861–1880 North East Victoria Probably suicide
Ned Kelly c. 1854–1880 North East Victoria Hanged
James Kenniff c.1870–1940 Queensland assassinated
Patrick Kenniff 1863–1903 Queensland Hanged
Frank McCallum, known as Captain Melville (many aliases) 1822–1857 Victorian Goldfields Murder/Suicide by hanging in gaol
James Alpin McPherson, known as The Wild Scotchman 1842–1895 Gin Gin, Queensland Died a free man
George Melville 1822–1853 Hanged
Musquito c. 1780–1825 Tasmania Hanged
Johnny O'Meally 1843–1864 Western New South Wales Shot by farmer
John Paid, known as Wolloo Jack ? - 1829 from Stanwell Park terrorised Sydney area in the 1820s Sent to gallows with gang.
Frank Pearson, known as Captain Starlight[18] 1837–1899 Northern and Western New South Wales Prison sentence, released, accidentally poisoned himself while drunk
Sam Poo ?–1865 Coonabarabran, New South Wales Hanged
Harry Redford, known as
"Captain Starlight – The gentleman bushranger"[19]
c. 1842–1901 Longreach, Queensland Found not guilty at trial
Codrington Revingstone[20] South-West Victoria (1850)
Billy Roberts (probably), known as Jack the Rammer B?–1834 South Eastern New South Wales (1834) Shot by a convict overseer.
Edward Russell[21] d.1826 Launceston, Tasmania Shot and eaten by fellow bushrangers Thomas Jeffries and John Perry
Andrew George Scott, known as Captain Moonlite 1842–1880 near Gundagai, New South Wales Hanged
Owen Suffolk 1829–? Victoria Shot in prison
Frederick Ward, known as Captain Thunderbolt 1835–1870 Northern New South Wales (1863–1870) Shot by police
William Westwood, alias Jackey Jackey 1820–1846 Sydney and Southern Highlands, New South Wales Hanged
Frederick Phillips (alias Samuel Ward)- 11th Regiment Soldier turned bushranger 1829–? Western New South Wales (1860s) unknown

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ian Potter Museum collection: Bushrangers, u21museums.unimelb.edu.au. Retrieved on 9 January 2011.
  2. ^ "AUSTRALIAN BUSH RANGERS". Stand and Deliver, Highwaymen & Highway Robbery. Archived from the original on 18 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "BUSHRANGERS OF AUSTRALIA" (PDF). National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  4. ^ "Bushranger Thunderbolt and Mary Ann Bugg". Accessed 9 October 2011.
  5. ^ Baxter, Carol. Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady: the true story of bushrangers Frederick Ward and Mary Ann Bugg. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin, 2011. ISBN 978-1-74237-287-7
  6. ^ "Old Windsor Road and Windsor Road Heritage Precincts". Heritage and conservation register. New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority. Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  7. ^ "Robbery Under Arms". Australian Scholarly Editions Centre. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  8. ^ "Rolf Boldrewood". Internet Movie Database. 
  9. ^ Graulich, Melody; Tatum, Stephen. Reading the Virginian in the New West. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8032-7104-2
  10. ^ Reade, Eric (1970) Australian Silent Films: A Pictorial History of Silent Films from 1896 to 1926. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 59. See also Routt, William D. More Australian than Aristotelian:The Australian Bushranger Film,1904-1914. Senses of Cinema 18 (January-February), 2002. The banning of bushranger films in NSW is fictionalised in Kathryn Heyman's 2006 novel, Captain Starlight's Apprentice.
  11. ^ Hogan, David. "World's first 'feature' film to be digitally restored by National Film and Sound Archive". Archived from the original on 20 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-24. 
  12. ^ "Mad Dog Morgan (1976)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  13. ^ "Australian Bushrangers JACK BRADSHAW". 
  14. ^ "Angel & Thurston: A bushranging story that traverses the Castereagh". 
  15. ^ "Thomas Hobson ( Alias Angel) - Dunkley Web Site - MyHeritage". 
  16. ^ "History of the Australian Bushrangers". 
  17. ^ "Australian Bushrangers JOHN JAMES (alias Johnston)". 
  18. ^ "The Bushranger Site – Bushranger Profiles". 
  19. ^ "Harry Redford the Movie". 
  20. ^ The Maitland Mercury and Hunter Gazette Advertiser Sat 24 August 1850
  21. ^ "Manuscript 3251: Van Diemen's Land 1821-1862". 

External links[edit]