Outlaws mean big business for tourism

Outlaws mean big business for tourism

07 Sep 2011

DNA testing has confirmed the discovery of some of Ned Kelly’s remains and that the skull, which was displayed at the Old Melbourne Gaol for many years, does not belong to the infamous bushranger.

glenrowanAccording to La Trobe University Heritage researcher Dr Warwick Frost, this news once again shows our fascination with all things connected with outlaws.

‘All over the world there is this tendency to mythologise outlaws as going outside the law to fight injustice.’

‘Whether real or fictional—such as Zorro or Batman— their stories connect with people, tapping into our frustrations with modern society. Outlaws are big business, both in tourism and the media.

‘Part of this fascination draws on unresolved mysteries. Was Robin Hood real? Did Billy the Kid fake his death and escape? Where are Ned Kelly’s remains?’ asks Dr Frost.

Perhaps the most bizarre controversy involves the death of Ned Kelly’s contemporary Jesse James.

‘This American outlaw was shot in the back by Bob Ford in 1882. Why did James turn his back? One claim is that it was to adjust a crooked picture on the wall, a picture still displayed in a Missouri museum.

‘A counter claim is that he was dusting a picture. Another Missouri museum displays his authentic feather duster,’ says Dr Frost.

This widespread interest in the tangible remains of outlaws has long influenced official policy. Ned Kelly was tried and executed in Melbourne rather than Beechworth, a deliberate move to separate him from his regional support base.

Under nineteenth century law, Kelly was buried in an unmarked grave. Up to the 1850s, the bodies of executed felons were returned to their families says Dr Frost.

‘After one family put a body on display to paying customers, this practice was discontinued. With Kelly, the authorities were very keen to disguise the whereabouts of his remains. As the DNA testing revealed last week, they were successful,’ he says. 

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Meghan Lodwick

Media Communications Officer
T (03) 9479 5353 M 0418 495 941 E m.lodwick@latrobe.edu.au

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