Australian History: Bushrangers

In the early days of Australia’s history, bushrangers roamed the countryside. They lived by stealing horses, holding up farms and travelers and robbing banks and stores. Many were escaped convicts. Others were just young men looking for adventure and freedom from the boredom of everyday work.

Imagine that you were a convict. Perhaps you worked in a government gang. Perhaps you were assigned to a settler. What would you do if you were treated so badly that you couldn't stand it any longer? lf you spent all day dragging an iron chain and making roads? If your master never gave you fair rations but made you work from dawn to dusk? If you knew that you had many more years to go before you could be free? lf you had a chance, would you try to escape? Where would you go? You'd surely get caught if you went to Sydney or a town. The bush was the safest place. You'd heard of other convicts escaping into the bush. Some of them got caught. Some of them gave themselves up because they didn't know how to look after themselves. But some of them did all right. They survived. You could try to find other escaped convicts and join them. Perhaps the Aboriginals would help you. You could always steal food from the farms of settlers. It was worth a chance. After all, you had nothing to lose.

Convict BoltersConvict Bolters: Australia's first bushrangers were escaped convicts called 'bolters' They fled into the bush and survived by stealing from settlers and travellers.

 

Gold RushFriends and Heroes: Many Australians today think of the bushrangers of the gold rush days as heroes. Bushrangers could never have done so well if they did not have the support of many bush workers, small farmers and people who lived in Country towns.

 

Bushranger ActBushranger Act: By 1830 there were so many bushrangers roaming around New South Wales that the government passed a special Act to make it easier to catch people who might be bush- rangers.

 

Jack DonahueJack Donohue: The most famous of the convict bolters was Jack Donahue, an Irishman who arrived in Sydney in 1825, aged eighteen. He was serving a life sentence for theft.

 

Frank GardinerFrank Gardiner: Frank Gardiner was one of the few bushrangers who didn’t end up dying in prison or by being shot or hanged. Born in 1830, he began his life of crime by stealing horses when he was twenty.

 

Ben HallBen Hall: Ben Hall started his working life as a young and hard-working farmer in New South Wales. In 1862, when he was twenty-four, he was arrested and kept in jail for a short time.

 

Captain MoonliteCaptain Moonlite: Captain Moonlite's real name was George Scott. His is one of the strangest stories of any of the bushrangers. In 1869 George Scott was a preacher at the small church in the town of Egerton in Victoria.

 

Dan MorganDan Morgan: Dan Morgan was born in Campbelltown, New South Wales, in about 1830. His mother was an Irish convict. Even as a teenager, Morgan was in trouble for attacking policemen and stealing.

 

William WestwoodWilliam Westwood: In 1836 William Westwood was sent to Australia as a convict. He was only sixteen years old and had been found guilty of stealing a coat. He was sent out to work on a farm as a convict servant.

 

Other BushrangersOther Bushrangers: Black Caesar, Michael Howe, Alexander Pierce, Matthew Brady, Martin Cash.