Australia had its own version of the Wild West during the 19th century, with notorious bushrangers robbing travellers and evading law enforcement. Bushrangers were outlaws, often convicts who had escaped from prison or free settlers who turned to a life of crime due to poverty. They used various tactics, including robbing mail coaches, holding up banks, and stealing livestock, while hiding out in the bush and using disguises. Famous bushrangers include Ned Kelly, Ben Hall, and Captain Thunderbolt. Many were eventually caught due to their own mistakes or being betrayed by their own gang members.
The Wild West Down Under: Bushrangers in 19th Century Australia
The term ‘Wild West’ is often associated with the American frontier, but did you know that Australia also had its own version of lawlessness in the 19th century? Known as the ‘Wild West Down Under’, Australia was home to notorious bushrangers who roamed the outback, robbing travellers and evading law enforcement.
Who were the Bushrangers?
Bushrangers were outlaws who lived a life of crime, often on the run from the law. They were usually convicts who had escaped from prison, or free settlers who turned to a life of crime due to poverty or other desperate circumstances.
The most famous bushranger was Ned Kelly, who is often referred to as Australia’s own Robin Hood. Kelly, along with his gang, robbed banks and held up police stations before he was finally captured and executed in 1880.
Other notable bushrangers include Ben Hall, who was known for his daring raids on mail coaches, and Captain Thunderbolt, who famously escaped from prison by jumping over a 10-foot fence on horseback.
Why did they become Outlaws?
Many bushrangers were convicts who had been sent to Australia as punishment for their crimes. Once they were released or had escaped from prison, they found it difficult to make a living and turned to crime in order to survive.
Others became bushrangers due to the harsh living conditions in the outback. Settlers who were struggling to make a living turned to robbing mail coaches and stealing livestock in order to provide for their families.
How did they Operate?
Bushrangers used a variety of tactics in order to evade the law and carry out their crimes. They robbed mail coaches, held up banks, and stole livestock from farms.
In order to avoid detection, they often hid out in the bush, only emerging to carry out their crimes. They also used disguises, such as wearing masks or women’s clothing, in order to avoid being recognized.
Bushrangers were also known for their use of firearms, which they used to intimidate their victims into handing over their possessions.
How were they Caught?
Despite the best efforts of the police, many bushrangers managed to evade capture for years. However, in many cases, it was their own arrogance or mistakes that led to their downfall.
For example, Ned Kelly was finally captured after a failed attempt to rob a bank in Glenrowan, Victoria. He and his gang were surrounded by police and a siege ensued, during which Kelly was shot and captured.
Similarly, Ben Hall was betrayed by one of his own gang members, who told the police of his whereabouts. Hall was shot and killed by police while trying to escape.
The Wild West Down Under was a period of lawlessness and daring exploits in Australia’s history. While the bushrangers may have been seen as villains at the time, they have since become cultural icons, featuring in literature, film and television.
Their legacy lives on today, with museums and tourist attractions dedicated to their exploits, and their stories inspiring a sense of adventure and rebellion in many Australians.
1. Who were the most famous bushrangers in Australia?
Ned Kelly, Ben Hall and Captain Thunderbolt were some of the most notorious bushrangers in Australia.
2. Why did bushrangers become outlaws?
Many became outlaws due to poverty or other desperate circumstances, while others were convicts who had escaped from prison and struggled to make a living.
3. How did bushrangers hide from the law?
Bushrangers often hid out in the bush, only emerging to carry out their crimes. They also used disguises, such as masks or women’s clothing, to avoid being recognized.
4. How were bushrangers caught?
Many bushrangers were caught due to their own arrogance or mistakes, such as failed robbery attempts or being betrayed by their own gang members. Some were shot and killed by police while trying to escape.