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T-shirt – A Pardon for Ned Kelly #2011-1766

White cotton t-shirt with a screen printed image of Ned Kelly’s helmet and gun and inscribed ‘A Pardon for Ned Kelly’.


This t-shirt was part of the 1980 ‘Ned Kelly centenary’—that is, the centenary of his death—during which a campaign for a posthumous pardon was launched. To some, Kelly is a heroic figure, compelled by injustice to fight the police. To others he is a common criminal, best forgotten. The people behind the ‘Pardon’ campaign were left-wing nationalists. Important support for the campaign came from the Builders Labourers Federation in Melbourne. The campaign petition received several thousand signatures but failed to secure a pardon for Ned Kelly. The issue has been kept alive on-line by an Australian ‘nativist’ group (nativism being the belief in the dominant established community in a country or region and the perpetuation of its culture):

The t-shirt is from a collection of objects given to the donor by a daughter of the late Ted Bull (1914-1998) who was Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation (Melbourne Branch) and a supporter of the ‘pardon’. An account of the Ned Kelly centenary has been written by the organiser, Peter Galvin, and is at

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This Ned Kelly t-shirt was produced by a committee established in Melbourne 1980 to campaign for a pardon for Ned Kelly. Kelly had been executed a hundred years earlier and the ‘pardon’ campaign was part of the Ned Kelly centennial. Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly was an Australian bushranger, the son of poor Irish settlers, born in north-east Victoria in 1855. His conflicts with authority resulted in the deaths of three policemen in 1878. A letter defending his actions was written by Kelly at Jerilderie in 1878 and demonstrated his class consciousness and antipathy to the British. After nearly two years on the run, Kelly, his brother and two others (referred to as the Kelly Gang) confronted police reinforcements at Glenrowan where they donned their now famous protective armour and helmets. Ned’s three comrades died but he was captured, tried and executed in Melbourne. Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang are icons in Australian popular culture with many books, documentaries, and films about them. The art-works of Sidney Nolan capture the mythical quality of the Kelly legend while the common expression ‘Game as Ned Kelly’ keeps his memory and mythos alive. The t-shirt is significant as an example of anti-authority protest and the nationalism that experienced a revival during the late 1970s. Ned was promoted as a victim of injustice, reflecting the historical sympathy felt for him and his cause, especially among the small selectors in Victoria in the 1870s and, more widely, in 1880.

  • T-shirt – A Pardon for Ned KellyT-shirt – A Pardon for Ned Kelly —
  • T-shirt – A Pardon for Ned KellyT-shirt – A Pardon for Ned Kelly —


Width 761mm
Height 707mm
Medium Cotton; ink
Creator’s name Unknown
Impression -
Date created 1980