Famed bushranger Ned Kelly is currently front-runner for a posthumously awarded Australian Of The Year, 2016. Amidst great controversy Kelly, who died in 1880, is likely to be awarded what is surely Australia’s greatest honour on January 26th.
A self described ‘widow’s son’ Kelly was a hardworking labourer who was responsible for many great achievements over his short life which was tragically cut short at age 25.
Ned Kelly was a natural seeker of justice. On the incarceration of his beloved mother who was harshly sentenced after an incident in which she was protecting her daughter from assault of a police officer, Kelly wrote
..to give those people who are suffering innocence, justice and liberty. if not I will be compelled to show some colonial stratagems which will open the eyes of not only the Victoria Police and inhabitants but also the whole British Army…
(Jerilderie Letter, p. 19)
In a few short years Kelly managed to significantly influence social and legal policy, particularly in his home state of Victoria. As a direct result of his actions there were tightening of laws and new criminal legislation enacted to ensure the safety of all Australian citizens.
Kelly’s work was responsible for swiftly improving procedures in banking security around the state and his dedication also resulted in improving safe working conditions for bank employees. It has been said that he was responsible for the first Occupational Health & Safety legislation for Coach Drivers.
Kelly was a generous man and had several government fundraising initiatives attributed to his work in the form of ‘bounties’. As his closest working colleagues were a marginalised minority, he selflessly established the first Australian ‘shelter’ deep in the rugged Victorian high country.
Kelly’s rise to notoriety was largely through use of the available social media of the time known as The Bush Telegraph
There were many other ways in which Ned Kelly showed what a truly great Australian he was.
Known for his boxing prowess and marksmanship, Kelly was a keen sporting enthusiast.
He popularised great Australian traditions such as bush camping.
He was responsible for fuelling the creative minds of writers and media for over 100 years
From Irish roots, he was pro immigration
He is attributed with the boom of Billy Tea, creating a wealth for tea growers which spurred an industry still in existence today.
Although born a son of the patriarchy and in a pre feminist era, Kelly never raped or committed domestic violence.
It is safe to say, Ned Kelly was a brave man, true to his word and his convictions.
If you think Kelly is an egregious choice for 2016 Australian Of The Year, then I will personally vouch you are not alone. However it is strongly felt around the nation that Australia can’t possibly make a worse choice than it has in the past year and so as Australia Day 2016 draws near we await in eager anticipation to see what we can bungle next.
In the meantime, please enjoy Redgum’s tribute to Poor Ned