From ArticleWorld

Bushranger- the word today has a romantic, anti-authoritarian ring to it, but the real bushrangers were criminals who robbed banks and settlers, rustled cattle and stole horses from people who could ill afford to lose them. European settlement of some of the more remote areas of Australia meant a hard harsh life where food and money were scarce and the ground often unforgiving and dry.

The term bushranger came about because the fugitives often hid from the law in the Australian bush. The first bushrangers were escaped convicts who, once having fled the often cruel conditions of the penal colonies, found they had few skills suitable to support themselves in this strange new land. They had to resort to stealing from the more remote settlements and sell the proceeds to other free settlers.

The Victorian gold rush provided the bushrangers with rich pickings and their activities peaked throughout the 1850’s and 1860’s but it was also a time when transportation in the form of railways and communication in the form of telegraphy underwent vast improvements; making it more difficult, as time went by, to evade capture.

By name

Some of the earlier bushrangers were Captain Thunderbolt, Ben Hall and Dan Morgan. Ben Hall was born in 1837 to parents who had been transported to Australia for minor stealing offences. He became a successful grazier but turned to bushranging because of a series of circumstances, one of which was his wife leaving him to live with another. Captain Thunderbolt committed over 200 crimes in just over six years of outlawry and Dan Morgan was well known for his drunkenness and cruel temper.

Perhaps the most famous of them all is Ned Kelly, who was also the last bushranger. His story is probably the most deserving of some compassion and that is why he was able to gather a lot of support from his countrymen and women. His stance was essentially against the anti-Irish Catholicism shown by the authorities and the harassment of his family by the police. Sentenced to hanging in 1880, he has become known as an Australian Robin Hood.