Ned Kelly (December 1854 – 11 November 1880) was an Australian bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and convicted police murderer.
One of the last bushrangers, and by far the most famous, he is best known for wearing a suit of bulletproof armour during his final shootout with the police.
Kelly was born in the British colony of Victoria as the third of eight children to Irish parents.
His father, a transported convict, died shortly after serving a six-month prison sentence, leaving Kelly, then aged 12, as the eldest male of the household.
The Kellys were a poor selector family who saw themselves as downtrodden by the Squattocracy and as victims of police persecution.
While a teenager, Kelly was arrested for associating with bushranger Harry Power, and served two prison terms for a variety of offences, the longest stretch being from 1871 to 1874 on a conviction of receiving a stolen horse.
He later joined the "Greta mob", a group of bush larrikins known for stock theft.
A violent confrontation with a policeman occurred at the Kelly family's home in 1878, and Kelly was indicted for his attempted murder.
Fleeing to the bush, Kelly vowed to avenge his mother, who was imprisoned for her role in the incident.
After he, his younger brother Dan, and two associates—Joe Byrne and Steve Hart—shot dead three policemen, the Government of Victoria proclaimed them outlaws.
Kelly and his gang eluded the police for two years, thanks in part to the support of an extensive network of sympathisers.
The gang's crime spree included raids on Euroa and Jerilderie, and the killing of Aaron Sherritt, a sympathiser turned police informer.
In a manifesto letter, Kelly—denouncing the police, the Victorian government and the British Empire—set down his own account of the events leading up to his outlawry.
Demanding justice for his family and the rural poor, he threatened dire consequences against those who defied him.
In 1880, when Kelly's attempt to derail and ambush a police train failed, he and his gang, dressed in armour fashioned from stolen plough mouldboards, engaged in a final gun battle with the police at Glenrowan.
Kelly, the only survivor, was severely wounded by police fire and captured.
Despite thousands of supporters attending rallies and signing a petition for his reprieve, Kelly was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out at the Old Melbourne Gaol.
His last words were famously reported to have been, "Such is life".
Historian Geoffrey Serle called Kelly and his gang "the last expression of the lawless frontier in what was becoming a highly organised and educated society, the last protest of the mighty bush now tethered with iron rails to Melbourne and the world".
In the century after his death, Kelly became a cultural icon, inspiring numerous works in the arts, and is the subject of more biographies than any other Australian.
Kelly continues to cause division in his homeland: some celebrate him as Australia's equivalent of Robin Hood, while others regard him as a murderous villain undeserving of his folk hero status.
Journalist Martin Flanagan wrote: "What makes Ned a legend is not that everyone sees him the same—it's that everyone sees him.
Like a bushfire on the horizon casting its red glow into the night."