NED KELLY – A SENSE OF COLONIAL HISTORY
By John Suta
The causes for which Ned Kelly contended, namely democracy and fairness as opposed to privilege and persecution, have in general terms, prevailed in our society. Ned Kelly has become associated with the ideal Australian profile: bravery, egalitarianism and an understated form of humour; an aversion to informing on others; an irreverently laid-back style and a dislike of pomposity, officialdom and bureaucracy.
John Suta Legal had the privilege of representing approximately 160 of the Ned Kelly’s descendants, predominantly from the family lines of Ned’s sisters, Grace and Maggie. They were seeking the return of Ned’s skeletal remains in Melbourne to the family for burial in “consecrated ground” at the Greta Cemetery in accord with Ned’s final wishes.
Ned’s remains were identified in 2011. It was not until August 2012, that his descendants were granted an exhumation licence by the Government of Victoria which gave the descendants control over the remains.
On 20 January 2013, Ned Kelly was ultimately buried at the Greta Cemetery near his home and his family and friends. The descendants informed me that they were always told Ned Kelly was born during the Eureka Stockade in December 1854, which makes him nearly 26 years of age at the time he died.
Ned Kelly wrote a letter to the Governor of Victoria His Excellency Marquis of Normanby on 10 November 1880 – the very day before Ned’s execution:
“…for the day will come when all men will be judged by their mercy and deeds and also if you would grant permission for my friends to have my body that they might bury it in consecrated ground.”
Ned dictated the letter to Warden Buck and it bears Ned’s mark X by his own hand. Ned could not write the letter because of a gunshot wound.
Ned Kelly’s request that his body be handed over to his friends for burial in consecrated ground was refused. An application by the relatives for the body was also denied.
Ned Kelly was buried at the old Melbourne Gaol in 1880. His remains were then transferred to Pentridge Prison in 1929.
With the intervention of John Suta Legal, these remains were then exhumed by Heritage Victoria and taken to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in 2009 where they were identified as the skeletal remains of Ned Kelly.
Ned’s last wish for his body to be buried in consecrated ground has now been granted and achieved. He is buried next to his family and friends as he wanted.
The funeral took place St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Wangaratta, on 18 January 2013.
The burial was conducted at the Greta Cemetery on 20 January 2013. This was done two days after the funeral in order to avoid members of the public who proceeded to the Great Cemetery immediately after Ned Kelly’s funeral.