Bushrangers, outlaw bands that roamed the desolate bush and mountain regions of southern Australia during the 19th century, robbing travelers, rustling stock, and terrorizing the scattered rural towns. The first bushrangers were escaped convicts, deported from Great Britain to penal servitude in Australia. Later, farmers and other colonists, living in conditions of severe economic deprivation and hounded by creditors and an arbitrary brutal police, were tempted into bushranging. Because their criminal careers frequently originated in legitimate social grievances, they sometimes enjoyed the sympathy and protection of the rural population.
By the 1840's the problem had become so serious that stringent legislation was enacted to rid Australia of bushrangers. In some areas martial law was enforced, and powers of summary search and arrest were exercised. These measures served to suppress the problem at first, but with the gold rush of the 1850's, bushranging reemerged, thriving on rich gold shipments and the newly fattened rural banks. Some notorious personalities of this era were Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall, and Andrew Scott, alias Captain Moonlight, in New South Wales and the daring Kelly gang in Victoria.
   The Kelly gang was made up of several related families of poor farmers of Irish descent. There is little doubt that the Kellys were engaged in cattle raiding and other illegal activities, but there is also evidence that they were brutally persecuted by the police. In 1878 the matriarch of the Kellys was imprisoned for complicity in a fight in which a police officer had been injured; Ned Kelly, his brother Dan, and two friends, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne, opened war on society. For two violent years they raided fearlessly, robbing banks and carrying out a number of vengeful murders. The Victoria government offered large rewards for their capture, and hundreds of police were mobilized to accomplish this end. In June 1880, the gang heard that a special train carrying a police detail was being dispatched to the town of Glenrowan. They entered the town and herded the townspeople into a hotel as hostages. They also made plans to blow up the train. One citizen escaped, however, and flagged the train. In the battle for Glenrowan Hotel that followed, three of the gang were slain, despite suits of crude iron armor that they had fashioned for themselves. Ned Kelly, also in armor, was only wounded, but he was captured. He was convicted and hanged at Melbourne within the year.