I have been debating with myself the wisdom of making this Blog Post because it’s about how, behind the scenes, the Kelly legends are quietly and effectively being dismantled. Ive wondered if it would be better not to alert the Kelly mobsters to whats going on under their very noses, because this might sting them into mounting some sort of a counter attack, and slow down the ongoing replacement of the lies and mythology about the Outbreak that they still cling to, with verifiable historical truths.
But in the end I decided to go ahead with this post, for a number of reasons, one of which is that I am hoping it will encourage more people to do what I and others are doing, when we see garbage about the Kelly story that needs to be corrected. This isn’t a campaign to replace one version of the Kelly story with a different one, but a campaign about replacing lies and false claims with verifiably historically accurate information.
So, for example if you see a claim somewhere that Fitzpatrick was a womaniser who raped Kate Kelly, you can register your objection and supply the relevant facts and ask that the myths be removed so that the public can be honestly and accurately informed. If you read somewhere that there was a gunfight at Stringybark Creek that the police lost, you can supply the facts, which are that only Kennedy ever got to actually fire his revolver, and the other two were killed within seconds of being ordered to Bail Up, and well before they had a chance to aim let alone fire their weapons. If you read that McIntyre committed perjury, one of Ian Jones favourite lies, you can point out that Ian Jones was wrong, his claim is based on a discrepancy between McIntyres version and a version invented by Sadleir over thirty years after the fact. Pushing back against the many lies and myths that are still being promoted by Kelly sympathisers is worth doing, if you think that Outbreak history-telling should be about the truth, rather than about the perpetuation of lies and fantasies, and the vilification of Ned Kellys police and other victims.
Another argument that prompted me to go ahead with this post was the realisation that if Kelly mobsters decide to mount a counter-offensive, and try to stop the removal of lies and myths about the Outbreak from public places like Museums and History Websites, they are almost certainly going to fail. Thats not just because the facts and the evidence are against them, but because as can be seen on their Facebook pages, they are incoherent, they are confused and irrational when it comes to defending what they believe, and any sane, rational Museum Administrator or Website creator will see it straight away. Take for example the recent attempts by Mick Fitzsimons to rubbish Ian MacFarlanes ground- breaking work ‘the kelly gang unmasked’ on Book review sites. All he does is lampoon the author and any other person who supports the book, and as we already know from his idiotic FB page aimed at rubbishing the book, he is incapable of making a rational argument. The same can be said of most of all the other people who defend the kelly myths – the facts are against them, their own abilities are against them and at learned Institutions people like that get nowhere. On the other hand, arguments that are evidence-based and rational are likely to be effective.
The other argument for making this post was that it would give me an opportunity to respond to the scepticism thats been posted to Facebook about whats already been achieved. There were many expressions of disbelief about what happened – two are shown above – but I am not deluded or being humoured by the National Museum : they took my complaint seriously and acted on it, but it wasnt as straightforward as that might sound.
I first wrote to them in July 2021. This was their response, after I wrote again a month later:
Thank you for your feedback and comments regarding the film Episode 11: ‘Australia’s first terrorist’, which is a part of the 12-part series ‘Australian Journey: the story of a nation in 12 objects’ made by Professor Bruce Scates and Dr. Susan Carland.
This was a part of a series produced by Monash University and the Australian National University, with assistance from the Museum as the objects explored are from the Museum’s collections. The foot of these films does include the following statement: ‘The views expressed in this series are those of the authors and interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the view of their host institutions or the National Museum of Australia.’
One of the Museum’s roles is to collaborate with subject experts on a wide range of topics, and we frequently reach out to others to assist us in producing the best content possible. We do welcome comment and critique on all content and would like to thank you for raising your concerns with us.
This has given us the opportunity to reach out to experts on the Kelly gang and ask them to review the film with your comments in mind. Based on their findings we will review our position regarding the place of the film in the suite of content within the Australian Defining Moments Digital Classroom. We are unfortunately unable to commit to a timeline for review at this stage.
Three months later I finally had their decision: they knocked me back!
“We have consulted with historians involved in the making of this film and we agree with them that the film, together with the supplementary material on the webpage, including the interview with Professor Frank Bongiorno, is suitable content for the Digital Classroom.”
I wrote back and pointed out that by asking for the assesment of my complaint to be done by “the historians involved in the making of the film” they had violated their own Complaints procedure by not getting an independent arbiter to adjudicate my complaint. The conflict of interest was too obvious – and they agreed.
“The issues raised in your correspondence of 14 November 2021 have been reviewed internally and a decision has been made to remove the film while an external review is undertaken in relation to material inconsistencies and incorrect information contained in the film.”
Finally, 9 months later, I got this :
Thank you for your patience as the Museum has undertaken an external review of the video ‘Australia’s First Terrorist?’. As per the advice of the external reviewers and the internal review undertaken by the Museum staff, we have decided to remove the video permanently from our websites. We will not seek to re-make the video at this time.
We also wanted to let you know that the Museum’s curatorial team is currently undertaking a comprehensive external review of Ned Kelly content from across the Museum’s websites.
We appreciate you taking the time to provide a comprehensive analysis of the video. Your comments and insights will support the other review taking place.
Thank you for your continued support for the Museum.
Click below to read my letter:
COMPLAINT TO THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA (final copy)
15 Replies to “Correcting the Record”
Hi David, that is an excellent letter your wrote to the NMA, and great to see they finally removed that disgraceful video. It shows how captive and dependent places like museums are to tipping their hats and bowing and scraping to “learned academics” who are remarkably frequently not subject matter experts in the examples they conjure up to support their pet theses. Here, Carland is involved via her well known know all hubby in the Monash Centre for Terrorism Research or whatever it’s called now, and has leapt onto the Jones legacy of bat brained Kelly republic nonsense to make a few anti-terrorism points. This fits in nicely with the Old Melbourne Gaol’s moronic poster of Kelly in an orange jumpsuit asking the same sort of question, Was Ned Kelly terrorist, I.e., was there something legitimate about his activities that might link to a political (naturally republican) motive and hence become a victim of the state he allegedly opposed! Jones’s legacy is muddle headed stupidity write large all over Kelly commentary. His pernicious influence will take decades to get rid of. I don’t think it will really fall until there is a new factual counter narrative to the mountain of crap he created with his amateur bungling and distortions. Well done for getting rid of one piece of 💩. Next to go should be the learned professor John Molony’s equally disgraceful NMA video in which he spins lengthy utter rubbish about the Fitzpatrick incident including stating that Fitzpatrick raped Kate Kelly. I wrote to them a few years ago about that but they are too stuck in boot licking their “experts” to pull down their dated disgraceful drivel and lies, but just let the misinformation run on like the endless intellectual sewer that it is.
Hi Stuart, glad you liked my letter. I agree its going to take a long time before everyone in the mainstream agrees Kelly was a criminal and the Legend is dead and buried, but it will happen, eventually. Theres an irresistibility about facts and evidence if it keeps getting applied and reapplied like mortar to a cracked and broken wall. The die-hard Kelly Fanatics are now aging baby boomers and young writers like David Dufty, and some of the young people who post here and to my FB page are the ones who will finish it off I think.
I think maybe its time to have another go at the appalling Molony video. Was he dead when you tried to get it changed? Their reluctance, in deference to the aging Professor might have changed now?
Hi David, Wikipedia says he died September 2018 so he was probably still alive when I wrote to the NMA. If so it says even more about their boot licking that an institution wouldn’t revise its historical material for fear of offending some error-ridden old academic egos. “After all”, they might say, “he was such a NICE man and so INTELLIGENT”. Bad luck about the subsequently misinformed.
Maybe if they had asked him he might have said he mis-spoke?
“Behind the scenes, the Kelly legends are quietly and effectively being dismantled.”
Congratulations. More strength to your pen … a lesson in courage, clear thinking and truth.
Speaking of correcting records, the Ned Kelly Touring Route revision is now heading for a year over its deadline, and throughout that time the NKTR website has maintained its utter BS that it has known is utter BS since at least 3 different applications were sent in last year to get the re-write project (including mine), at least 2 of which spent considerable ink demolishing various myths and BS on the NKTR. But they left it up; and some moron keeps posting more BS on the NKTR Facebook which I can’t access as I don’t have Facepuke Dataleak Specialists, but a friend has sent me a few screenshots now and then. The NKTR site and Fakebook is a disgrace, and both should have been suspended online from at least the start of this year until the rewrite is finished and online. Then we (as in us various critical persons) can all see how historically accurtate the new version is, and post accordingly.
I advise I received an email from Indigo Shire Council on 2 Sep, saying:
“The committee is now working with a tourism communications professional to finalise the copy and get the site content ready to publish. The contracted date for the delivery of the final website content is end of December 2022, at which point the website content will be updated.”
What also concerns me, is that once the website and promotional material is completed without the myths, how long will it take the councils to remove all the mythological rubbish around their towns on sign posts etc. that still display myths. Additionally, the people who do the tours, who are almost ALL Kelly fans, and the nonsense that they bleat out to those on their walking tours will need to be addressed as well. That will be a challenge.
It is clear more work will need to be done, but I will be in that neck of the woods in December, and will be taking note of what needs to be done as I will go through all the towns and take notes, pics and video’s to follow up in due course. This task will take longer than anticipated, but it is going to happen.
Hi Sam, the Jerilderie tourist street signage was almost all from Jones quotes and references when I was there some 3 years ago. I expect it hasn’t changed. His republic myth pops up in a couple, that the bank robbery had a political motivation. Drivel from one end of Jerilderie to the other. The councils seem to think that Kelly as Jonesian hero is more attractive for tourism that Kelly as Australia’s most notorious criminal, but other crime king sites here (Tassie) and overseas prove otherwise.
And yes, the Beechworth Kelly walking tours seem to be all run by Jones-soaked Kelly enthusiasts spouting nonsense. I have been on three of these different guided tours and they all repeat long disproven Kelly myths. Any cautious questioning of the narrative by me was immediately dismissed by the tour guides as wrong. Total knuckle-heads.
I consider this blog to be an important historical work, as significant as any book on the topic. It had a huge influence on me when I was writing “Nabbing Ned Kelly.”
Hi David D, the blog also had a big influence on me when I started reading up on Kelly back about 10 years ago as a result of the Australian Republican Movement leaning towards promoting Kelly as a republican hero, yet everything claimed about it especially by Jones seems utterly at odd with any other area of Australian political history in which Kelly is non-existent. As we have seen, Jones’ persistence over nearly 60 years changed that perception based on bending and twisting histporical facts and using selective editing and omissions to produce a J.J. Keneally-inspired misrepresentation of Kelly as hero (with a touch of charming criminality) – remember his “Gentleman Ned” mistitling of a photo of a some other bearded man as Kelly that he got wide publicity for?
And congratulations again for solving the 140+ year puzzle of the claimed ” skyrockets” at Glenrowan to summon Jones’ (and Molony’s) non-existent fantasy of a sympathiser army. Just sparks from a shunting train at Glenrowan that also fits the events timeline. Why didn’t anyone else click to that in 140 years? I must say it was extremely hard to say nothing to anyone for several months until your book came out after you revealed that one! I guess that’s a benefit of coming into something from a totally different field. My ancient history, your wartime histories…. All good stuff.
Thanks, Stuart. I must add that your work on Kelly history is also superb.
As you say, the ‘steam locomotive’ theory of the rockets matches the timeline. It also matches the physical layout. I seem to recall that Ian Jones was all conspiratorial about the fact that there were no follow-up questions about the rockets, but maybe the reason was just that everyone was politely ignoring something that, frankly, sounded a bit bonkers.
There were journalists on the station platform. If they had seen ‘rockets’ they would have written about it in the saturation news coverage in subsequent days and weeks. Why didn’t they see them? The answer is that they did, but took no notice because it was merely the commonplace sight of sparks flying up from a locomotive engine, such as when someone opened a locomotive firebox.
I think the reason that nobody thought of this explanation before is that nobody bothered about the rocket stuff until Ian Jones brought up, almost a century later. By then, steam trains were no longer in use.
Also agree this blog is an amazing resource. I love coming here and engaging with proper historians doing actual research while also spitballing new ideas and angles. I’m currently overseas, touring Athens and the Greek Islands. For what it’s worth I had a funny little moment in Naxos a few days ago. I was browsing in a fairly decent bookshop, and strangely the Australian section had a true crime section and a royalty section a shelf apart. There was a copy of Alex McDermott’s not-very-good Jerilderie Letter book which had clearly been moved from true crime to royalty, presumably by some cringey Aussie. I promptly returned it to true crime…
Hi Thomas, not Sir Ned yet then? Or His Royal Nedness?