National Library of Australia

Teachers notes: Ned Kelly


A student:

  • develops media products using research of issues and stories from certain times, countries or places.
  • identifies and analyses a range of media texts and discusses responses to them.

Visual Arts

A student:

  • analyses and responds to a range of visual art works using appropriate language and terminology both orally and in writing, e.g. refers to imagery, prototypes, visual symbols.

The infamous activities of the Kelly gang have been the inspiration for many Australian cultural productions, across all art forms.


  • Are Australian heroes similar to or different from heroic figures in the United States? If so, how? What do these similarities or differences say about our Australian national identity?
  • The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) was the first feature length film to be made in the world. It was also the first film to be banned. Discuss why the film was banned and why you think the police would not allow it to be screened in certain parts of Victoria.



  • List the number of films about Ned Kelly made since 1906. List the number of books written. What is it about this story that has so captured the national imagination?
  • Create a mock trial and make a video documentary of it. Interview people in associated with the Kellys in the following roles: members of the constabulary, bank managers, publicans, Ellen Kelly, Mrs Scanlon and other gang members. Question the evidence they have as witnesses to support a character analysis of Ned Kelly as either a murderous criminal or a political activist.
  • Analyse Sydney Nolan’s Kelly paintings and discuss the following questions: What do you feel in front of these images? What is the mood? How is the work made/composed (colour, line, shape, texture and design)? What symbols are used? What is the artist communicating? Can you see different psychological states in the Kelly mask within each of the different images? Describe the different moods they convey.


  • Have a debate, divide into media: literature, film and visual art. Convince your audience that your medium is the one that best captures the story of the Kelly gang and why.
  • Debate—are all Australian heroes in some way damaged personalities?