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For other uses, see Bushranger (disambiguation).
Main article: Brigandage
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' heyday 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]

NameLivedArea of activityFate
Locky Taylor "Gentleman Bushranger"1799 – 4 May 1826Van 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 Howe1787 – 21 October 1818Van Diemans Land / TasmaniaCaptured and killed by William Pugh and Thomas Worrall (convict)
Jack Bradshaw[13]1880North West Slopes and New England regions, New South WalesDied of old age
Mary Ann Bugg1834–1905Northern New South WalesLover of Captain Thunderbolt, died of old age
Joe Byrne, one of the Kelly Gang1857–1880North East VictoriaShot by police
John Caesar1764–1796Sydney areaShot
Martin Cashc. 1808–1877TasmaniaPrison sentence, released after 13 years
Clarke brothers1840/1846-1867New South WalesHanged
Edward Davis, Teddy the Jewboyd.1841Northern New South WalesHanged for murder 16 March 1841
John Donahue, known as Bold Jack Donahuec. 1806–1830Sydney areaShot by police
John Dunn1846–1866Western New South WalesHanged
John Francisc. 1825–?Victoria Gold Fields (1853)Released after giving Queen's Evidence
John Fuller, known as Dan Mad Dog Morganc. 1830–1865New South WalesShot
Frank Gardinerc. 1829–c. 1904Western New South WalesPrison sentence, then moved to California
John Gilbert1842–1865Western New South WalesShot by police
Jimmy Governor1875–1901New South WalesHanged
Ben Hall1837–1865Western New South WalesShot by police
Steve Hart, one of the Kelly Gang1859–1880North East VictoriaProbably suicide
Thomas Hobson, known as The Angel, Mark Angel[14]1859-1885[15]Coonamble, New South WalesShot
John James, alias Johnston[16]b. 1819Hobson's Bay, Victoria15 years' hard labour, free pardon after 6[17]
Joseph Bolitho Johns, known as Moondyne Joec. 1828–1900Western AustraliaNumerous prison sentences, died a free man
Henry Johnson, known as Harry Power1819–1891North East VictoriaPrison sentence, released
Dan Kelly, brother of Ned Kellyc. 1861–1880North East VictoriaProbably suicide
Ned Kellyc. 1854–1880North East VictoriaHanged
James Kenniffc.1870–1940Queenslandassassinated
Patrick Kenniff1863–1903QueenslandHanged
Frank McCallum, known as Captain Melville (many aliases)1822–1857Victorian GoldfieldsMurder/Suicide by hanging in gaol
James Alpin McPherson, known as The Wild Scotchman1842–1895Gin Gin, QueenslandDied a free man
George Melville1822–1853Hanged
Musquitoc. 1780–1825TasmaniaHanged
Johnny O'Meally1843–1864Western New South WalesShot by farmer
John Paid, known as Wolloo Jackfrom Stanwell Park terrorised Sydney area in the 1820s
Frank Pearson, known as Captain Starlight[18]1837–1899Northern and Western New South WalesPrison sentence, released, accidentally poisoned himself while drunk
Sam Poo?–1865Coonabarabran, New South WalesHanged
Harry Redford, known as
"Captain Starlight – The gentleman bushranger"[19]
c. 1842–1901Longreach, QueenslandFound not guilty at trial
Codrington Revingstone[20]South-West Victoria (1850)
Billy Roberts (probably), known as Jack the RammerB?–1834South Eastern New South Wales (1834)Shot by a convict overseer.
Edward Russell[21]d.1826Launceston, TasmaniaShot and eaten by fellow bushrangers Thomas Jeffries and John Perry
Andrew George Scott, known as Captain Moonlite1842–1880near Gundagai, New South WalesHanged
Owen Suffolk1829–?VictoriaShot in prison
Frederick Ward, known as Captain Thunderbolt1835–1870Northern New South Wales (1863–1870)Shot by police
William Westwood, alias Jackey Jackey1820–1846Sydney and Southern Highlands, New South WalesHanged
Frederick Phillips (alias Samuel Ward)- 11th Regiment Soldier turned bushranger1829–?Western New South Wales (1860s)unknown


  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]