The Bushrangers of Australia

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12289

John Wayne, Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood, Han Solo . . . popular figures hailed as heroes, whether good or bad. How do we choose our heroes? Ride with some of Australia's past outlaws and folk heroes!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Why do you think outlaws are sometimes honored as heroes?

One of the popular movie genres, or types, in the mid-twentieth century was the Western.

Moviegoers loved to follow the stories of the men in white hats versus the men in black hats — the "good guys" versus the "bad guys." Some of those stories were based on the legends of the American West and some of the real heroes and outlaws who lived there.

Australia also has a heritage of legends like these. The outlaws of the Australian version, though, were known as "bushrangers." The "bush," much like the American "wild West," was a vast, open land that only the bravest and toughest settlers could survive. The term "bushranger" came from the people who attempted to settle the land. The term became associated with criminals and convicts whom people thought were the only ones tough enough to live in the bush.

Learn more about the bushrangers by reading a short piece of writing below. As you read, write down the answers to the following questions:

  • When did the period of the bushrangers begin?
  • Who was the first famous bushranger?
  • Why did some people sympathize with the bushrangers?

Now, read the short piece about the bushrangers below, and record your answers to those questions:

The "bush" is an important part of the way Australians think about their country and imagine its past. There have been many books, films, and other works of art produced to show the place of the bush in the imagination of the Australian people. One of the most popular kinds of stories about the Australian bush is the legends of the bushrangers. The first bushranger was a man named John Caesar, also known as "Black Caesar." Black Caesar was a former West Indian slave. He escaped into the bush in the year 1790 and became a notorious thief. He was captured many times but frustrated authorities with his ability to escape time and time again. He survived in the wilderness by hunting and fishing but also by the kindness of strangers who supported him.

Many other bushrangers would follow. Some modern Australians made the bushrangers into heroes. They committed crimes, it is true. But many believe that the bushrangers were in fact fighting against unfair living conditions and poor treatment by authorities. The stories of these wilderness survivors have become a popular and romantic way of remembering the Australian past and thinking about the difference between right and wrong.

Share the information you uncovered with your parent or teacher, then discuss the following questions:

  • Why do people sometimes turn the "bad guys" into heroes?
  • Do you think it is right to make the bushrangers, like Black Caesar, into heroes? Why or why not?
  • Can you think of any similar examples from your own country's history?

Black Caesar was just the first of many bushrangers.

In the Got It? section, learn about the fascinating lives of some other famous outlaws from the Australian bush!

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