International Journal of

Arts , Humanities & Social Science

ISSN 2693-2547 (Print) , ISSN 2693-2555 (Online)
DOI: 10.56734/ijahss
Bushranger Re-Enactments: Legend And Landscape


The re-enactment of events from Australia’s history as popular entertainment has dropped away in the twenty-first century. Whilst Old Sydney Town attracted crowds from 1973 through to 2003 with its daily parades of British red coats who marched down to an artificially constructed ‘Old Sydney Cove’, Australians today often have a more conflicted view of Australia’s colonial history. If national identity is maintained through acts of ‘remembering’, as suggested by Ian McBride (2001), the past can be a contested issue that impacts on what is accepted as popular representation. Yet the persistence of bushranger escapade re-enactments, though set in colonial times, suggests that issues beyond Australian national identity are at work in maintaining the popularity of such events. Bushrangers in Australia have fuelled imaginative representations in theatre and then later cinema since the early 1800s, with Andrew James Couzens (2019) stating that the Australian “bushranger legend … responds to the historic and mythic characteristics of outlawry” with “the outlaw as heroes”.  This paper investigates three specific bushranger re-enactments. In Braidwood, south-eastern New South Wales, from 1865-1867 the Clark Gang, Tom and John Clark terrorized citizens and were known as ‘the bloodiest of bushrangers’. In 2017, the 150-year anniversary re-enactment of the Clark Gangs’ shooting up of the small country town of Braidwood attracted crowds keen to witness, as well as take part in the drama. The second re-enactment occurs regularly through performances by the Gympie Historical Re-enactment Society. Opting to entertain tourists, the group have staged a ‘Bushranger Show’ at numerous sites throughout inland regional Queensland. The third re-enactment occurred annually, until Covid struck, at Canowindra in northern New South Wales. In 1863 the notorious bushrangers, Ben Hall and Johnny Gilbert locked a group of villagers in the Canowindra pub, the re-enactment takes place at the site of these events, the now named Royal Hotel in the main street of Canowindra. These re-enactments are investigated through multiple lenses of performance, place, and politics. The site-specific nature of these performances positions them as specifically different than performances depicting Australian bushrangers in the cinema or theatre.