|The crumbling tourist attraction at Glenrowan
I had been giving Joanne Griffiths the benefit of the doubt because when she launched the Ned Kelly Center project in late 2015 she wrote “It doesn’t matter what you believe of Ned Kelly but it is important to understand that pivotal time in our history.” This is what all Kelly Facebook pages and websites say when they first get started, that all opinions are welcome but usually quite quickly it becomes apparent that all they really want to do is talk about Ned Kelly the hero.If you want to discuss anything else they expel you, which is why until a few days ago her Facebook page was the only place that hadn’t banned me. However, almost nothing was happening there until recently, so my comments there were few and far between. Even so, in spite of her statement that ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe of Ned Kelly’ many of my comments were deleted, not because they were offensive or rude but because they were perceived as “anti-kelly”. But at least until the other day I hadn’t been banned.
A few days ago on the NKCenter FB page someone asked if Buffalo Bill Cody was in some way related to Mary Cody who was Red Kellys mother. This question has been answered time and time again but still it gets asked – the answer is no they are not related. BBCs forbears originated from Guernsey, an island in the English channel quite close to France, and changed their name to Cody when they arrived in north America in the 17th century. I posted this fact to her site, and was thanked by the person who asked the question. A little later I responded to a claim on the same thread that the term ‘hostage’ should not be used in reference to the people Ned Kelly imprisoned. I merely pointed out that numerous prominent Kelly authors used the term – people such as Ian Jones, Brad Webb, Paul Terry and Grant-Lee Kieza – but the Kelly troll protested yet again to Joanne who finally gave him what he wanted, caved in to his bullying and deleted all my contributions to that site and I was blocked!
So her true colours were exposed at last! Leigh Olver and his crew will no doubt be saying “What took you so long?”
Here is a comment I made on this Blog in 2015 when she first announced the project:
“One has to ask the question of the Kelly descendants : What the hell is wrong with you all that in 135 years you never managed to agree amongst yourselves on doing something together for your famous relative ? I’ll say one thing for that woman though : at least she had the courage of her convictions and actually tried to make something happen! Sadly for her, all she has achieved is to expose the internal divisions within Kelly ranks, a fact which will destroy any public support for her project which is virtually stillborn.
The other even bigger problem she was facing was the status of the Kelly Legend itself, which has taken some massive hits in recent years thanks to Ian MacFarlane, Morrissey and now Dawson. The reality is that the truth about Ned Kelly and the Outbreak is
finally being revealed and there is declining interest in the fairy stories spun about him, and growing understanding that he was not Australias Robin Hood but a notorious liar and a violent killer and psychopath camouflaged by flamboyant language, clever use of Public relations, gimmicky armour and acts of bravado. The heyday of the Jones-Kelly mythology has passed. The Kelly people missed their chance to capitalise on it, and they would be better to get used to it, and give their support to the Kelly Vault.”
All that’s happened since then is that the status of Kelly mythology has declined even further, and the Kelly factional divisions have become deeper. Does anyone remember she announced there was going to be a website about her project? Didn’t happen. Does anyone remember that Joanne launched a crowdfunding venture to raise $2 MILLION dollars? She said at the time it was to try to buy the Beechworth Gaol, because she said Beechworth would be the perfect place for her Kelly Center. She raised an abysmal $1100 from 3 donors– a disastrous flop even worse than the recent Kelly movie Kickstarter campaign failure. So that didn’t happen either.
So now we read on the Ned Kelly CENTRAL FB page, that having failed to gain any public support for her schemes in Beechworth she is now hoping to get public money – not 2 million but 4 million – to fund a different and even more grandiose Project in Glenrowan. She wants to gain control over several “Kelly” sites, such as the site of the siege and some of the local Kelly tourist ventures which are currently on a death watch. Leigh Olver, who I suspect is the operator behind Ned Kelly Central, the Facebook page set up in opposition to Joannes Ned Kelly Center has posted a fascinating list of the attempts made over 17 years to establish a Kelly Interpretive Center in Glenrowan. The really horrible fact he reminds us of is that an enormous amount of money has been wasted by local authorities on studies and plans looking at ways to revitalise the area using Kelly history and a Kelly ‘interpretive centre as a focus and draw-card, but so far not a single step toward such a development has taken place.
Recently Joanne Griffiths made her pitch to Wangaratta Council for support for her ideas. They gave her ‘in principle’ support but deferred a final decision until they receive yet another horrendously expensive ($150,000) report from a Consultancy which is going to ‘re-imagine’ the Kelly story by “exploring and assessing the current tourism experience and (to) develop recommendations and concepts to revitalise the approach to a major national story”
This is what I think should happen. Someone needs to point out to Wangaratta Council that the age of Kelly mythology has ended and the public are no longer interested in the fairy tales of Ned Kelly. The demise of Kelly internet sites, the collapse of Glenrowan into ghost town status with Kelly attractions falling into disrepair and unable to be sold as going concerns, the abject failures of Joannes crowdfunding campaign and the Kelly movie Kickstarter campaigns – all these realities show that Kelly is o longer the attraction he once was. People mostly now see him as a criminal, an unattractive but still fascinating figure in the way major crime figures always have been. Someone should also remind Council that Glenrowan was intended to be the site of a massive police slaughter, an atrocity that was avoided because of the bravery of Thomas Curnow, the barely acknowledged true hero of Glenrowan. Do they want to create a memorial to a triple police murderer? And do they realise there are massive and bitter divisions within the Kelly mob, and Joannes schemes are not supported by the majority of them? Is the Council going to take sides in the Kelly wars?
There is however one bright spot in Kelly country that seems to be thriving : Beechworths Ned Kelly Vault. They actively promote themselves as a museum and not a shrine to Ned Kelly, and according to the Vault, they have huge numbers of visitors. However, the Old Treasury building that houses this collection is bursting at the seams – the vault needs bigger premises, and if the Council wants to spend money on Kelly history rather than Kelly idolatry and the personal dreams of one faction of the divided Kelly descendants then they ought to help the Vault.
I’ve visited the Vault twice and though I’ve been critical of certain relatively minor aspects of the place, its still a fascinating place to visit and its by far the best thing going for Kelly history in the North East.
Joanne should be dumped and the Council should turn its attention to helping the Vault.
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