The point I want to emphasise is that calling someone a villain, or a hero does not require or imply in any way a denial of the persons humanity, or a denial of the complexities of human development and character, or a denial that there may be some good in even the worst of men, and some evil in the best. But calling someone a villain, or a hero is a statement of what you believe to be the truth about a person after weighing up all the evidence, all the good and all the bad, all the influences and the circumstances of the life being examined, like a Star rating for a movie or an ATAR rating that is an attempt to sum up a persons ability with a single number. I’m old fashioned enough to still believe such scoring systems have a use, but not so blind as to be unable to see that a person is a whole lot more than just a number or a label, and sometimes that number or a label can be thoroughly misleading.
Equally, with Ned Kelly. If we are not going to simply abandon the attempt to understand who Ned Kelly was, we are going to have to put him somewhere. And its very clear to me that he does not belong in the middle – Ned Kelly was not Mr Joe Average.