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Bushrangers of New South Wales

The stories and songs of the bushrangers shine a light on Australia’s early attitude to crime, family, race and justice.

For more than a century the exploits of these bushrangers captivated – and in the most notorious cases – horrified the Australian public. The newspapers of the time fed an eager readership stories of their bushranger crimes and the violent, deadly manhunts as justice caught up with them.

The most famous bushrangers have entered into folklore as the romantic subjects of campfire stories and bush songs, but the reality was often less of a fairy tale. It was a risky, sometimes wretched life of poverty, scavenge, evasion and pursuit. Once a bushranger was declared an outlaw, it was legal for anyone to shoot them on sight. Facing the prospect of hanging when captured, most cornered bushrangers preferred to fight to the death rather than surrender. This was the fate that met most of the infamous Kelly Gang during the stand-off at Glenrowan, Victoria, in 1880.

"Robbing the coach and the escort, stealing our horses at night, Calling sometimes at the homesteads and giving the women a fright" 
- Banjo Paterson, In the Stable

New South Wales had more than its fair share of notorious bushrangers. In fact, it was not long after the First Fleet arrived that convict bolters, such as John 'Black' Caesar, fled into the bush around Sydney. Later during the gold rushes, bushranging hit its height as robbers fell on those carrying back the bounty of the goldfields along wilderness trails.

Today the stories and songs of the bushrangers shine a light on Australia’s early attitude to crime, family, race and justice.

The hunt for the Governor gang of bushrangers. A posse of mounted police, aboriginal trackers and district volunteers...

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  • Portrait

AB Paterson, 'Banjo'

Agnes Noyes Goodsir
ML 269

Agnes Goodsir was born in Portland, Victoria in 1864, but spent most of her adult life in Paris where she studied at various academes and worked as a painter. In 1926 she was made a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts, one of few Australians given this honour. Goodsir returned to Australia for most of 1927, exhibiting in Melbourne and Sydney, and undertaking several portrait commissions.

Andrew Barton Paterson was educated in Sydney. He studied law and worked as a solicitor, while writing for the Bulletin under his pen name Banjo. Paterson subsequently worked as a war correspondent and newspaper editor, but is most celebrated for his popular and iconic ballad writing. Goodsir’s portrait of poet Banjo Paterson, commissioned by philanthropist Eadith Campbell Walker in 1927, was presented to the Library the following year.

Captain Thunderbolt

By God, I thought it must have been a thunderbolt.

Made possible through a partnership with Peter and Ellie Hunt