To All Councillors
Wangaratta City Council
July 15th 2017
At your regular Council Meeting on June 20th 2017, after receiving a letter from Joanne Griffiths in regard to a proposed Ned Kelly Center in Glenrowan a recommendation was made that the Council:
1. provide in-principal support to the Ned Kelly Centre and their endeavours.
2. delay any decisions with regards to the requests submitted by the Ned Kelly Centre pending the outcomes of the Ned Kelly Alive reports recommendations.
It’s not apparent from material so far released that the outside agency employed to produce the Ned Kelly Alive report will be inviting submissions from the general public on the topic, so I respectfully ask you to allow me to make one directly to you, in the hope you will take the matters raised in this letter into account when you make your final determinations.
1. Clearly the Kelly outbreak is an integral, important and fascinating part of the history and collective memory of the North-East, and it cannot and should not be ignored. From a tourism perspective it provides many opportunities both in Glenrowan and elsewhere in the North-East to inform, fascinate and enrich the experience of visitors to the area.
2. I believe that where the Council is contemplating spending ratepayer funds on public works or promotions, it ought to do it on projects the Public actually supports.
3. My concern in relation to the proposal of Joanne Griffiths is that firstly, the Public aren’t behind her proposal. This was made very evident last year when she launched a crowdfunding exercise in an attempt to raise $2million dollars for the Kelly Center. She raised $1100 dollars from three donors.
4. You may also be aware that Joanne Griffiths represents one small group of Kelly descendants, of whom there are many. The greater number of Kelly descendants have publicly announced they neither endorse nor support her proposals. Her project therefore is something more akin to a personal interest than something that results from any kind of consensus within the Kelly community.
5. Just as importantly the evidence seems to be that interest in the Kelly story generally is in decline: As you will know the Ned Kelly weekend which was an annual fixture at Beechworth has now been removed from the Calendar. You will also be aware of the plight of the various Kelly tourist ventures in Glenrowan – they all seem to be in decline and have been perpetually on the market, with no interest from commercial enterprise. Nobody seemed interested in preserving the ruined chimney that marked the site of the Kelly homestead at Greta – and in recent weeks that has collapsed, gone for ever. A recent attempt to fund a ‘definitive’ Kelly movie to be shot in the north-east ended badly with barely 5% of the required money raised.
6. For all the preceding reasons I don’t believe the Council ought to support Joanne Griffiths proposal. It is a personal project which the majority of Kelly descendants and the public have not supported.
I also believe one of the responsibilities of the Council, when it comes to the promotion of local history, is to insist that it be told accurately, and with balance. Whoever tells the story at Glenrowan must be sure to take into account the following facts:
1. The Inn site is a crime scene, a place of awful violence that would have escalated to make it a synonym for massacre, a blood bath like Port Arthur, Columbine and Sandy Hook if Ned Kelly’s plans had not been thwarted.
2. The reality is that the site at Siege street is a place where two innocent people – one a child – were killed.
3. Three gang members also died there, one from a police bullet, two by suicide
4. It’s the place where a triple Police murderer was finally captured.
5. The claim the Kelly gangs purpose for the siege was to establish a Republic of North East Victoria is highly contentious and not supported by modern Kelly writers.
6. Ned Kellys own statements make it clear that Glenrowan was intended to be akin to a modern day terrorist attack, wherein dozens of Police would be slaughtered and hostages used as human shields in bank raids, and as currency to be exchanged for the release of his mother.
Despite the popular view that the siege was somehow a light-hearted romp with dancing and hop-skip-jump competitions, in fact the Seige was not an event that accurate and balanced renditions of its history would find much that was heroic or much to celebrate. A full and accurate understanding of Glenrowan, if that’s what Council felt tourists ought to be provided with, would leave them sombre and reflective. Its not a place that Kelly descendants ought to be able to promote their partisan views of what took place.
I believe the time has come for truth to be told about Ned Kelly and Glenrowan. Instead of continuing to promote unhistorical views of the Kelly outbreak that the public no longer support, and have seen through, there should be an acknowledgement that the man and his family and associates were criminals whose activities were viewed with alarm by the great majority of the areas inhabitants at the time. The 20thcentury revisionism of the Kelly story needs to be replaced by a 21stcentury historical accuracy. But understand this : death of the legend doesn’t mean death of the story, the TRUE story of what happened, it doesn’t mean the death of the intrigue and the fascination that remains around the Kelly outbreak, or the denial of historical places and peoples connections to the events of the saga. The fact is that human beings will forever be intrigued and fascinated by crime, by lawbreaker criminal families and gangs, by murder and bank robbery, by what makes and drives the criminal personality, by pioneer history, court-room drama, capital punishment and mystery and myth, all of which and more are so uniquely woven into the greater Kelly story. It will remain a great story of the north-east and continue to draw visitors to the area.
with thanks for your attention
An Interested Observer.
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